As news networks pondered the possibility of war between the U.S. and Iraq, auto makers were beginning to feel the wrath that uncertainty brings.
Sales executives at Chrysler Group say a noticeable pause in showroom traffic began to take hold the third week of January, as consumer attention turned toward international conflict and away from showrooms.
“Usually we look to hit an acceleration curve in week three, but that didn't happen (in January),” says Gary Dilts, Chrysler senior vice president-sales. “The unknown part of this is scary to people.”
Dilts points to Chrysler's disappointing minivan sales in January, down 27% overall, as an indicator of the war-talk's impact. Dilts says disappointing consumer confidence numbers and a lackluster U.S. economy are pushing minivan buyers to hold back until the outlook improves.
Chrysler isn't taking the uncertainty lying down. The auto maker will initiate an aggressive marketing and incentive program on minivans and other models, in an effort to stymie some of the negative market trends.
The campaign, dubbed “The Best Values in America,” touts Chrysler's revamped consumer incentive programs, including as much as $3,000 off minivans.