“Why would I even consider buying a car from Detroit,” says Leslie Hamilton, a successful author living in Seattle, “when I’ve been completely happy with my Toyota – and the one I had before and the one before that?”
It’s the same sort of question millions of other motorists keep asking themselves, nowhere more frequently than along the import-friendly East and West Coasts. Unless and until Detroit’s Big Three automakers can come up with the right answer, their ability to stage a significant comeback will be limited, industry analysts warn.
“How to get through to people in those markets is our number one challenge,” says Bob Lutz, the 77-year-old General Motors vice chairman who recently decided to postpone retirement but shift his duties from product development to marketing. “If I had the answer, I’d probably have done it yesterday.