U.S. Automakers Pin Recovery Hopes On 2010 Line

Automakers are rolling out their 2010 lineup. For American carmakers struggling to regain traction, their new offerings are critical to their recovery. Michelle Krebs, a senior analyst at the auto information Web site Edmunds.com, talks with Renee Montagne about what U.S. automakers have to offer consumers.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Automakers are rolling out their 2010 lineup. These new offerings come at a critical moment, especially for American automakers, who are still struggling to gain traction.

To find our more, we reached Michelle Krebs. She's senior analyst at the auto information Web site Edmunds.com.

Good morning.

Ms. MICHELLE KREBS (Senior Analyst, Edmunds.com): Good morning.

MONTAGNE: Now GM and Chrysler obviously have quite a lot at stake. They've emerged from bankruptcy. Their ability to survive could really hinge on their ability to sell cars this coming year. What have they got for 2010?

Ms. KREBS: General Motors, actually, has quite a lot. They have a new sedan that they're positioning against the Lexus and Acura models, the Buick LaCrosse. Cadillac's got a new crossover called the SRX, and they are expanding the successful CTS line with a coupe and a station wagon. And then Chevy is going to be really important to the future of General Motors. They actually have come out with the 2010 Chevrolet Equinox, which replaces a previous crossover. The other…

MONTAGNE: Now Chrysler, what about Chrysler?

Ms. KREBS: Now Chrysler's got, basically, not very much. Chrysler was purchased in - largely by Fiat, and so they are still sorting out what do they do about a future product line? Because one of the problems with Chrysler is they just didn't have a very full product pipeline. About the only big thing they've got coming is the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee, and that's hitting the market when SUVs have fallen out of favor. So, it's going to be a very tough and dry 18 months or two years for Chrysler.

MONTAGNE: Well, in broader terms, how are they looking? I mean, good enough to make it?

Ms. KREBS: I think Chrysler is still iffy. We still don't know how this Fiat deal will go. I think GM will make it, but, you know, they're getting rid of Saab and Saturn and Hummer, and they're going to focus on four brands here in the United States. So it's probably going to be a much smaller General Motors.

MONTAGNE: What about Ford? Ford has been, relatively speaking, on a roll.

Ms. KREBS: Absolutely. Now, let's remember, Ford still is not making money. But Ford's got a lot of interesting products, and they have been the beneficiary of not taking federal funds. You hear from consumers all the time, I bought a Ford because they didn't take federal money. They introduced…

MONTAGNE: And that's because - that's not a moral comment. That has to do with, what? They trust them more?

Ms. KREBS: Well, I'm not so sure it isn't a moral comment. I think that there is a lot of resentment. The majority of Americans did not favor the government bailout of General Motors and Chrysler, and so that helped Ford. Now, Ford also, to its credit, had a lot of positive products. They've got the Ford Fusion that continues to be on the roll.

The old Ford Focus just keeps churning them out. And they've got the new Ford Taurus coming out, which, by the way, is not your grandfather's Taurus. It's a completely new car, fabulous interior. They're bringing a lot of their European vehicles, which actually, they're European designed, but they'll be built in the U.S. For example, the Ford Fiesta is a really exciting new small car that will be coming from Europe, but they'll be building it here in Detroit.

MONTAGNE: Now, as you described it, there are significantly fewer offerings for various reasons. Is this a sign of things to come?

Ms. KREBS: Well, there was a lot of scaling back during the recession, the overall production and scaling back of cost spending on future products, so we're going to be reaping some of that. But in the future, we're going to see a lot more small offerings. Through this Cash for Clunkers program, we saw people opting for smaller vehicles, like small cars, midsize cars, little crossovers, and sort of like small SUVs. That is definitely a trend for the future.

MONTAGNE: Michelle, thanks very much.

Ms. KREBS: Glad to be with you. Thank you.

MONTAGNE: Michelle Krebs is a senior analyst industry analyst with the consumer auto information Web site Edmunds.com.

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