Chrysler gave up a niche for Eagle
I am writing in response to your June 2 editorial. Failing to kill off the moribund Eagle may be the Eaton regime's biggest mistake to date. Even so, the Eagle nameplate still has surprising value.
Before Chrysler vainly tried to reposition the Eagle as an upscale import fighter, it was the nameplate for a trend-setting hybrid sport-utility based on a car. The recent success of Subaru's Outback, which mimics the original Eagle wagon design, illustrates Chrysler's folly in abandoning a solid market niche.
Eagle stumbled as a brand, partly because Chrysler badge-engineered it into irrelevance. If Chrysler can afford the extraordinary luxury of three distinct sport-utility platforms (Cherokee, Grand Cherokee and the upcoming Dodge Durango), surely the corporation can spin off an all-wheel-drive wagon from the Plymouth Breeze body.
After all, isn't an Outback-style sport-ute an inexpensive way to generate additional high-profit sales from Chrysler's flagging mid-sized car platform? And why throw away a 17-year investment in the Eagle?
The writer is a reporter for Washington Health magazine.
Chrysler defends minivan market
We'd like to take issue with your June 23 story, 'Poll: More zoom for sport-ute boom' and set the record straight on minivan vs. sport-utility intentions.
Commonly accepted intention data, gathered among hundreds of thousands of new-car intenders during the last eight years, shows that the sport-utility segment has grown steadily from about 10 percent of total new-vehicle intentions to about 17 percent.
During that period, minivan intentions have remained stable, at approximately 8 to 9.5 percent of total new-vehicle intentions. We feel that the euphoria over sport-utility growth as well as reports of the impending demise of the minivan market are both misrepresentations of the facts.
As is evidenced by Chrysler's plans to market even more sport-utility models, we believe there is potential growth here. But where is it coming from? It is clearly not from minivans.
The market is telling us that roughly one out of 12 buyers wants and will buy a minivan. That number has not budged. When you ask 12 people if they want a minivan and 11 say no, you're not seeing a trend, it's just the fact. And it is not changing.
Minivans, especially Chrysler Corp.'s minivans, are still enjoying phenomenal repurchase rates. More Chrysler minivan owners come back for a second one than do owners of Honda Accords or Toyota Camrys.
So where do AutoPacific Group's numbers come from? You'll have to ask them. I think you will find that they see the future of minivans and sport-utilities about the same way as we do, as evidenced by their long-range sales forecast, which shows a decreasing but still healthy upward trend in sport-utilities and continued stability in minivan sales.
As for us, we're sticking with the facts.
DAVID P. BOSTWICK
Corporate Market Research
Auburn Hills, Mich.
He's Jack Taylor, but not THAT one
As chairman of Americans for Free International Trade Political Action Committee, I applaud your reporting on this aspect of our industry (June 23).
I particularly appreciated your efforts to distinguish between so-called 'hard' and 'soft' money. With the current national focus on soft money during the 1996 election cycle, I think it is extremely important to recognize that PACs are different. As your chart shows, the AFIT PAC has had impressive growth - raising the hard dollars and shunning soft money.
Your report cited a survey of soft-money donors associated with the auto industry, compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. It identified a $25,000 contribution by Jack Taylor.
There are a lot of Jack Taylors in this world, but I want to clarify one thing: This Jack Taylor, an active participant in the AFIT PAC and a Toyota dealer in Alexandria, Va., is not the one you cited.
A more specific identification would have been helpful in avoiding any confusion your readers may have.
JOHN E. (JACK) TAYLOR JR.
They'll pay more if you let them
No matter what dealer or what franchise - domestic or import - the complaint is always the same: new-car gross profit.
I am a volume dealer, and I suffer the same low-gross problem. We are all driven by volume discounts, volume bonuses, CSI bonuses - all the crazy concoctions the manufacturers create.
Last week, I thanked a repeat customer for his recent purchase of a new Pathfinder.
He told me he was amazed by the price he had paid, which was $1,200 under factory invoice. He said he had researched the cost through his credit union and Consumer Reports and was prepared to pay over invoice.
Today, I shook another hand and heard the same tale - a grinning customer told me he had paid hundreds less than he had been prepared to pay.
Gentlemen, it's time to wake up and smell the coffee!
Bob Sharp Nissan
American Honda notes export role
This year is the 10th anniversary of American Honda's automobile export program.
That's why I was surprised by a comment in Keith Crain's June 2 column: 'And the Germans, unlike the Japanese, have created American plants that will supply the world, not just North America.'
Exports have always been an important part of our business here.
We began in 1980 with exports of U.S.-made motorcycles. Since then, American Honda has exported more than $7.1 billion worth of U.S.-made cars, motorcycles and power equipment.
Last year, the Accord and Civic were the two top export models from North America. During the last 10 years, we have exported more than 450,000 North American-built cars to more than 60 countries.
In 1994, our export program took on new significance with a new global strategy that calls for self-reliant yet complementary operations in four regions around the world, a true global teamwork.
We are moving on to a new stage in our export program: Shipment of 'component packs' - packages of our U.S.-made engines and other major components that contain many of the key parts used to manufacture Accords and Civics at Honda plants in other nations.
America remains at the center of the world's auto industry because of the commitment of companies like Honda, which not only develop and produce products here, but make those operations a critical part of their effort to be globally competitive.
Export Sales Division
American Honda Motor Co. Inc.