Posted on Sun, Oct. 29, 2006
Hoosiers love Detroit cars
County residents buck national trend;
80% of vehicles Big Three-made
By Kimberly Peterson
The Journal Gazette
Dean Musser Jr./The Journal Gazette
Most parking lots in Allen County, such as this one at Southgate Plaza, are dominated by domestic cars.
Samuel Hoffman/The Journal Gazette
Shannon Graham shows off her Buick LeSabre in the parking lot of George’s International Market on Broadway.
Hoosiers love their American cars and trucks.
Eight out of 10 vehicles registered in Indiana are made by American auto companies, according to 2005 data from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. That proportion is almost 30 percent higher than the national average.
Allen County is right in line with the state average, although it has a higher percentage of General Motors vehicles, 36 percent compared with the state average of 34 percent.
“The story is that people have worked for the Big Three for a long time and people are slow to move away from them,” said Steven Szakaly, an economist for the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Center for Automotive Research.
One of the Big Three, General Motors, is one of Indiana’s major employers and has a nearly 3,000-employee truck assembly plant in Allen County.
Szakaly said that including suppliers and dealers, the domestic auto industry supports many more people than those who work directly for the Big Three.
At a Speedway gas station near Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, Melissa Akason, who drives a Ford Expedition, said she would never considering buying a foreign car.
“I like the Expedition; Ford makes a good truck,” Akason said.
Daniell Waxton, who drives a Ford Explorer, said she needed a reliable car that would accommodate her whole family.
“I always heard Ford was dependable,” Waxton said.
Eric Donnelly, however, isn’t convinced that American-made cars are more dependable than foreign competitors. Donnelly owns a Toyota Celica and said he’s not sure whether he would buy a domestic car because they seem to require a lot of repairs.
“My father’s new Ford is in the shop more than my 1986 Celica, and we drive about the same amount,” Donnelly said.
Shannon Graham, who drives a Buick LeSabre, said that though she tends to prefer foreign cars, the problem is that they cost more to repair than domestic cars.
“You can get parts for a Buick really cheap,” Graham said.
According to a study conducted in 2005 by Mintel International Group, an international market research firm, age is a significant factor in brand loyalty concerning vehicles.
The study found that “With those who are loyal to either imports or domestic (vehicles), there is a clear age divide – older respondents are more loyal to domestic nameplates, while younger respondents are more loyal to imported cars.”
With Toyota, Honda and other foreign-based manufacturers opening production plants in Indiana, Szakaly said the line between a foreign car and an American car is starting to erode.
“I think there’s definitely a move by international companies to portray themselves as domestic producers,” Szakaly said.
But Akason said she would not consider foreign automakers, local factories or not.
Chevrolet was the most popular car make registered in Allen County in 2005 with 32,213 registrations, more than three times the number of Toyotas.
But Indiana’s high American vehicle ratio may start to drop as Toyota gains market share and the Big Three slow production. In the first half of 2006, Toyota’s global sales rose 7.1 percent while GM’s global sales declined 2.3 percent.
“If you look at the market share penetration of the international (producers), it’s growing, and it’ll grow everywhere. Domestics may lose market share,” Szakaly said.
According to statistics provided by J.D. Power and Associates, U.S.-based manufacturers have a 54 percent vehicle market share nationwide as of September 2006.
Szakaly said the distribution of cars is uneven.
“Typically, the Midwest has a much higher percentage of domestic vehicles,” Szakaly said. He also pointed out that in California domestic vehicles make up about 30 percent of vehicles on the road. But Szakaly said Indiana’s proportion is particularly high.
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