Tough Times Subdue Auto Show

A lack of the usual over-the-top showmanship marked this year’s Chicago Auto Show, where automakers warned that another tough year lies ahead.

“It is not going to be an easy year for our industry,” General Motors North America president Gary Cowger said during his presentation. “Uncertainty still seems to be the common denominator.”

Eschewing the stunts and fanfare that typically mark the show, the automakers this year took a straightforward approach in showing their latest models. Executives from both GM and Ford Motor Co. said their focus for the year will be on product development as they try to entice a tight-fisted public. GM alone will launch 16 new or dramatically remodeled vehicles in 2002, Cowger said.

GM will also expand efforts to widen its audience with marketing directed toward women and minorities, Cowger said.

Several automakers unveiled new marketing efforts at the show. Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America is set to break new print work from Deutsch/LA, Marina del Rey, Calif., in March issues of enthusiast magazines, including Motor Trend, Car and Driver and Road & Track, said Greg O’Neill, the automaker’s executive vice president and general manager.

The executions will feature a day in the life of a typical Mits ubishi owner and his vehicle. About 40 percent of people who own Mitsubishis are under age 35, O’Neill said.

“We’re trying to [get] that energy, which is always difficult to do in print, that you see in the commercials,” he said.

Mitsubishi, based in Tokyo, has adopted Deutsch’s U.S. campaign—themed “Spirited cars for spirited people”—for branding use globally. That work is now breaking overseas in markets including Thailand and New Zealand.

Also, Chrysler has developed a Valentine’s Day effort around the brand’s tagline, “Drive=Love.”