LOS ANGELES (WWJ) When the Los Angeles Times runs a big story headlined “Domestic automakers gain traction in California,” you can see that the times are changing.
The story features quotes from Southern California car buyers, singing the praises of domestically branded cars.
“The car looks sharp,” says one buyer who traded their Toyota Corolla for a Chevy Cruze. “I test-drove one and checked it out and bought it.”
Another long time import buyer chose a Ford Fiesta for his 17 year old son.
“Ford seems to have brought its act up in the last couple of years,” he told the Times. “This was the first Ford I’ve ever owned.”
It also comes at a time when the Chevrolet Camaro has become the top selling sporty car in California, and all three domestic companies are seeing their market shares up, as Toyota saw slippage even before the earthquake.
Jeremy Anwyl, who’s CEO of Santa Monica, California based Edmunds.com has seen attitudes changing in his part of the country, where it had long been considered “uncool” to buy a domestically branded vehicle. That’s not the case anymore.
“The automatic assumption that cars sourced from Detroit car companies are not competitive is really being challenged today,” Anwyl said.
It’s not something that happened overnight. Anwyl says perception often lags reality, and that domestically made products have been improving for years. It just takes a while for buyers to catch up.
The tipping point came with the introduction this past year of competitive small cars, Ford’s new Focus and Fiesta and the new Chevrolet Cruze. Chevy has an American made subcompact, the Sonic, coming in the fall.
George Peterson, who’s CEO of Tustin, California based AutoPacific.com, tells the LA times that the California market is undergoing a “generational shift,” which will continue as the domestic brands put out more new products that are appealing to younger buyers.
“Each time they bring out a new generation car they only get stronger,” he tells the paper.
Follow Jeff Gilbert on Twitter @jefferygilbert.