Behind the Wheel with Phil Lebeau

Big Three: Ready To Give Them A Second Chance?


Could it be we Americans are ready to take a new look at the Big 3? A couple of data points coming out this week show good news for GM and Chrysler, and by extension of being a domestic auto maker, for Ford as well.

The question is whether this is a moment of forgiveness for the boys from Detroit or the start of something substantial the Big 3 can build on.

First, a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds 40% are more willing to consider buying a GM or Chrysler since they declared bankruptcy. Meanwhile just 14% say they are less likely. Good news for Sergio Marchionne as he takes over a post-bankruptcy Chrysler and for Fritz Henderson who is guiding GM through its own Chapter 11 reorganization.

Second, Kelley Blue Book is finding the percentage of people visiting who say they prefer a Big 3 model has jumped 4% since GM declared bankruptcy. In addition, Kelley Blue Book finds 44 percent of new-car shoppers in April considered buying a Ford compared to 31 percent in March. Right now, Alan Mulally has a big smile.

The question is whether these polls are true momentum for the Detroit, or a one time bounce? I believe Ford's momentum is legitimate given the new product it is rolling out and the fact people see Ford in a different light than GM and Chrysler since never went into bankruptcy. As for those two struggling auto makers, these polls show they WILL get a chance to win back buyers.

Conventional wisdom (and yes, you heard me say it many times) was that people would avoid a bankrupt auto company. But the quick run through Chapter 11 for Chrysler, and the fact GM is on the same path is apparently convincing people, these guys will get healthier after bankruptcy. And they might. It's still way to soon to know for sure.

Ultimately, for GM and Chrysler to take advantage of their "second chance" with buyers it will come down to the models they crank out. Will they connect with people? How quickly will the public start focusing on new cars and trucks instead of restructuring news.

Americans are forgiving and love a good comeback story. Now we'll have to see if GM and Chrysler can write a winning story.

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