What does it take to stand up to Toyota in California?
Combined, the Toyota, Lexus and Scion brands account for 28.8 percent of all new-vehicle retail registrations in California, according to R.L. Polk & Co. data collected through October. In some metro areas, that's more than the Detroit 3 combined.
In California this year, only the Saturn and Jeep brands have shown increased sales among the domestics. Even among full-sized pickups, the redesigned Toyota Tundra is the best-seller.
It doesn't help that the domestic brands remain horribly overdealered. In the San Francisco Bay area, their strongest dealers sell 120 to 150 new vehicles a month. The typical Toyota dealer in the area sells at least three times as many.
For many domestic dealers, it has come to the point that they can't afford to wait for the factory to rescue them with some long-promised halo product. Many are tired of one failed "California initiative" after another — usually a vehicle with extra cladding and accessories that looks suspiciously like the vehicle used for the "Texas initiative."
Instead, dealers are taking matters into their own hands — creating sales, marketing and service gambits to generate new business and take customers away from the Toyota juggernaut.
"California has not only gotten past any predisposition toward buying American, but now it's almost a slant against," says Howard Drake, owner-operator of Casa de Cadillac in Sherman Oaks.
To be sure, there are some exceptional domestic dealerships, such as Bert Boeckmann's Galpin Ford in North Hills. But for the average California dealer pushing Detroit metal, it's a tough slog.