Chevy Thomas, owner of Chevy’s Chevys Lone Star Autoworld, the local GM dealership, spoke at the LaCucaracha Optimists Club luncheon today. Thomas revealed a pessimistic outlook on the domestic auto industry now that Toyota is threatening its market niche. “We have dominated the substandard vehicle market for years, and now Toyota is cleverly trying to move into this market,” said Thomas. “We owned that segment, but now we’re facing stiff competition from a relentless competitor.”
Chevy explained that the average middle class American expects his or her vehicle to be in the shop frequently, have a poor EPA fuel economy rating, and offer poor handling and performance. “It’s a comfort zone for most average Joes. Plus, it gives them something to complain about,” explained Thomas. “We used to have competition from Hyundai, but now they make some of the most reliable vehicles on the road. Fifteen years ago, people would laugh at you for driving a Hyundai, but now they consistently receive high ratings from Consumer Reports. We were really glad when they abandoned our market.”
Thomas said the inside industry gossip indicates that Toyota is desperately working to destroy its image of quality through its recent sticking accelerator recall and braking problems with its popular Prius hybrid. “I’m afraid we don’t stand a chance if they keep up this pace.”
Thomas explained GM’s fatal mistake was shifting its market strategy towards consumer wants and desires as indicated by whiny focus groups. After the bailout, the government forced us to operate a leaner business structure and produce higher quality, fuel efficient vehicles. “This kind of thing always happens when you let the government meddle in private industry, but we really didn’t have a choice,” said Thomas.
“Personally, I think it all started going south when we hired Howie Long away from Radio Shack as a spokesperson. Everyone knows a retired, Caucasian NFL star can sell anything, but this guy was actually successfully pitching for Radio Shack. I mean, this company has a store the size of my living room, sells electronics for double what you would pay at Walmart, and the odds are what you need isn’t in stock. Who is going to order from the store, when they can order the same item online for less and have it delivered to their home? No one needs a new CB radio, but they’re in stock. My point is Radio Shack shared the same vision we had for decades at GM. Give the customer what you want to give them, and don’t ask their opinions. Of course, Howie was perfect from a marketing standpoint for GM. But, when he started challenging Toyota and Honda in those commercials, it was only a matter of time before they responded. I expect Honda will not be far behind Toyota – just wait.”
Thomas’s speech abruptly ended when Charlie Ham, manager of the locally owned Radio Shack stormed out of the room. Optimist Club President Herb Michaels said the group was optimistic about GM’s chances of recapturing its place in the auto industry, but generally depressed by Thomas’s speech. Since Chevy’s speech ran longer than expected, the vote on whether to admit women to the chapter was postponed until next month’s meeting.