The tagline in the 1978 movie Jaws 2 said, “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…”
Recent weeks have been a rollercoaster ride, with high emotions and panic as Wall Street values bounced up and down 400 points a day following the agreement by Congress to raise the debt ceiling another $400 billion.
As inept, self-serving politicians flirted with the possibility of complete financial collapse, second-wave recession talk risks spreading fear and uncertainty in every sector of American business, especially the retail automobile industry.
Yet, this industry has been hit hard and bounced back time and again. We'll do it again this time.
Some industry analysts are lowering their 2011 and 2012 U.S. light-vehicle sales estimates. One analyst, citing the Standard and Poor's downgrading of U.S. creditworthiness, adjusted 2012 vehicle-sales projections from 14.7 million units to 13.5 million.
Excuse me folks, but that ain't going to happen.
Why? Because the Japanese must regain lost market share as they ramp up to nearly full production in the last quarter. Even before the earthquakes and tsunami in Japan, I've been saying for more than a year there was going to be a major incentive war. It would have happened already had the earthquake not hit.
My original thinking edged that way when Hyundai and Kia became serious contenders and Toyota market share began to slide.
Now, with Ford, General Motors and Chrysler reclaiming turf, it looks as if Japanese auto makers must throw a lot of money at the market beginning early in the fourth quarter and throughout 2012.
Every auto maker will respond, and things will escalate.
For more than a year now, I've focused on something in speeches, articles and blogs. It is this:
Virtually every auto maker is staging rapid-fire introductions of new and redesigned products that will light up the consumers. Some of the most exciting vehicles ever built are in the pipeline.
Think of Steve Jobs and Apple bringing out the iPhone in late 2007. That was the eve of a terrible financial crisis. Yet, consumers embraced the new device, and sales were off of the charts.
It's the new and exciting product that pulls them back to the showrooms. And auto makers have plenty of that coming.
The industry and auto sales will continue to rebound, and the effects of the recent financial crisis will evaporate. That is not to say another crisis won't replace it if our government refuses to show fiscal responsibility. But nothing from this point forward can derail longer-term momentum.
Swirling another snifter of vintage Remy-Martin Louis XIII Cognac, holding it up to the light and breathing in the aroma, I am satisfied with the direction everything has taken. I am especially grateful for my new relationship with Ward's and reconnections with my friends and dealers.
A side story: After my Ward's column about Ford and, more specifically, Lincoln and the future of that franchise, I received a call at home on a Sunday from Jim Farley, Ford's vice president-global marketing, sales and service.
We chatted for more than 30 minutes. He spoke of Ford's plan for Lincoln. I had been critical of it in the column. The call ended with him extending an invitation to visit him at company headquarters in Dearborn.
My relationship with Farley and other Ford executives is cordial, but by no means guarantees praise from me unless it is warranted. Yet, it is great to have open communications with the top executives of this great company.
Jim Ziegler, president of Ziegler Supersystems, is a trainer, commentator and public speaker on dealership issues.
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