Detroit automakers still grapple with perception gap
by Jonathon Ramsey
"Import intenders" is the term used for car buyers who don't even consider domestic vehicles when planning their next purchase. And according to J.D. Power, they make up 54-percent of car buyers. In spite of Detroit's efforts, and in spite of improving testing scores, the Big Three have been unable to sway those buyers to their brands.
When Ford's ad agency put on a promotion called Swap My Ride, ordinary folks who drove Ford vehicles for a week raved about them. Buick just joined Lexus at the top of the J.D. Power long-term reliability survey. Yet when market research firm CNW holds focus groups with cars that have all of their branding removed, if people think the car is American their opinion of it automatically drops -- even if they're talking about a Toyota Camry. Having driven the new Cadillac CTS, which is a very good car, the biggest hurdle the brand will face when trying to lure BMW buyers is not the quality of the CTS -- it's the word "Cadillac."
There are a host of potential reasons for the reflex judgment of American cars = lesser quality. Detroit is building better cars than the ones that created the perception in the first place, but Ford, GM, and Chrysler aren't having much luck changing it.
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