In late 2002, Automotive News took a look at the Detroit's 3's eroding market share and posed the question: When will import brands gain 50 percent control of the U.S. market?
The math made one thing clear: If foreign brands continued to gain share at the rate they had for the previous six years, they would control 50 percent of the U.S. market in 2008. But we concluded that it would happen only if things went very, very wrong for Detroit's domestic brands.
Boy, did they.
Next month, unless the Detroit 3 open the incentive floodgates, their share could very well drop from the 50.2 percent they held in June.
Some of the experts we polled thought it would take much longer for the domestics to dip to 50 percent.
In 2002, CSM Worldwide, a suburban Detroit forecasting firm, predicted the Detroit 3 wouldn't cede half the market until 2015.
Jeff Schuster, an analyst with J.D. Power, predicted domestic automakers would get their act together before their share fell to 50 percent.
The fall of the Detroit 3 has been brewing for years. In key markets and regions of the country, such as California, Florida and New England, the Detroit 3 have virtually disappeared from consumers' radar for everything except trucks and SUVs. And now, because of high fuel prices, those vehicles are getting hammered.
As late as 2001, the Detroit 3 controlled 61.6 percent of the market. In 2002, Paul Ballew, General Motors' director of market and industry analysis, said GM saw foreign brands leveling off before reaching 50 percent.
"We don't expect imports to replicate the inroads" achieved from 1996 to 2002, Ballew said back then. "But we expect them to gain more share."
You may e-mail Richard Truett at [email protected]