AUTO MAKERS LOOK FOR IMPROVED SALES GM UNVEILS
'MYSTERY' CONCEPT CAR CALLED IMPALA SS (Buffalo News 1/6/93)
U.S. auto makers kicked off the North American International
Auto show Tuesday with predictions of higher sales, better market
share and new products aimed at beating back Japanese competition
that has plagued Detroit for more than a decade.
Ford Motor Co. President Alexander Trotman said the U.S.
market is finally showing signs of recovery after two years of
"If the bullishness that we see among our dealer body in the
last few weeks should continue for another month or two, it could
well be that (U.S. car and trucks sales) exceed 13.5 million
units," he said.
Auto analysts expect 1992 car and light truck sales to end up
around 12.8 million units, up from an eight-year low in 1991 of
12.3 million units. Full year sales figures are scheduled to be
released later today.
Trotman said if sales really take off, Ford could move to
increase production capacity by building another plant or adding
more overtime to existing factories. He said Ford may boost
production capacity to 4.6 million units by 1996 from the current
3.7 million vehicles.
Leaders of the nation's auto industry were to meet today with
President-elect Bill Clinton in Little Rock, Ark., to discuss the
economy, trade and industry regulations.
Clinton's office said the president-elect will talk about how
his economic plan and the pending North American Free Trade
Agreement will affect the industry.
Clinton also invited United Auto Workers President Owen Bieber
Ford, the nation's second-largest auto maker, has reason to be
optimistic this year. Its Taurus sedan is in a dead heat with
Honda Motor Co. Ltd's Accord for the title of America's
best-selling car and its market share numbers are up
substantially from last year.
Trotman said Ford's share of the U.S. car market is likely to
end up around 21.7 percent in 1992, up 1.7 percentage points from
1991, and its share of the total U.S. vehicle market is up 4.5
percentage points in the last 10 years to 24.6 percent.
Chrysler Vice President Marty Levine said Chrysler hopes to
increase its share of the truck market even further this year
with the introduction of a new full-sized pickup truck called the
Chrysler is to begin building the truck in July. Levine said
it hopes to sell 250,000 trucks a year, nearly three times as
many Dodge Ram trucks as it now sells.
Ford's upscale Lincoln Mercury division also hopes to woo some
luxury car buyers back into its showrooms with the new sporty
Mark VIII coupe.
Ford Vice President Lee Miskowski said the company has already
received 15,000 orders for the $ 36,640 car, about half of what
Lincoln planned to sell in 1993.
U.S. auto makers also are going on the offensive in
Ford said it expects to ship 60,000 cars and trucks to Europe,
Australia and the Far East in 1993, up from 50,000 in 1992.
General Motors Corp.'s Chevrolet division Tuesday unveiled a
"mystery" concept car, called the Impala SS, that could be on the
road in the next few years.
Chevrolet officials declined to say if the sporty concept car,
which was derived from the full-size Caprice and fitted with a
powerful Corvette engine, would actually arrive in showrooms by
the mid-1990s, but it remains a possibility.
"People want to know if we actually plan to produce and sell
it," Chevrolet General Manager James Perkins told reporters at
the Detroit auto show.
"That wasn't the idea. All we were trying to do was tweak the
interest of the automotive aftermarket. But based on the reaction
we're getting, I guess we ought to at least consider its
Chevrolet also introduced a new compact concept truck called
the Highlander. It features a sliding side panel to allow
passengers more room when they enter the vehicle.
Former GM Chairman Robert Stempel, a veteran of scores of auto
shows in a 39-year career at the leading auto maker, couldn't
resist a look at one more Tuesday.
Standing near the back of a crowd at a Chevrolet news
conference at the show, Stempel quietly greeted well-wishers and
journalists who approached him.
"I'm really proud of what's happened here over five years, so
it's really good to come back and see the guys and see the cars,"
He remains a technology adviser to Chief Executive Officer
John F. Smith Jr., the man tapped by GM directors to replace him
a week after his sudden resignation Oct. 25.
Stempel, 59, subsequently had surgery to replace a damaged
heart valve. He appeared several pounds trimmer Tuesday.
"I don't recommend it as a way to lose weight but it's not all
bad," Stempel said, laughing. "Time heals a lot of things . . .
no problems now."
GRAPHIC: Associated Press, Eddie de Santis and the Singing
Strings perform at a preview party at the International Auto Show