Automakers know whom to blame for the staggering load of incentives and discount coupons: themselves.
Lackluster products helped spark the price war, says Jac Nasser, president of Ford Automotive Operations.
The only escape from profit-eating, brand-eroding discounts is hot products.
Says Tom Stallkamp, president of Chrysler Corp.: 'I think as time goes on, more and more (automakers) will come out with more models and that will be a way to sort of wind down from this.'
Ford and Chrysler had no choice but to jump into the fray when General Motors ignited the current coupon craze April 10, the executives say. Owners of GM, Ford and Chrysler vehicles were sent coupons of $500 to $1,000 applicable on many products. 'It's sad that we got into this, but I think we'll end it probably in the early summer,' Stallkamp says.
Rick Wagoner, president of GM's North American Operations, says GM had to enter the incentive fight - or lose market share.
'I don't particularly want to lead the parade,' he says. 'But we're not going to sit around and let (competitors) just take or keep share of products that aren't better than ours just because they're willing to pay more.'
The three presidents spoke during annual 'Talk From the Top' interviews with Automotive News editors and reporters.
Nasser also vows to stay in the fight. 'We can't afford to sit back and be spectators.'