These 2 Vehicles Mean a Lot to Ford and GM

The 2013 North American International Auto Show is big. How big? It's shaping up to be one of the biggest in almost a decade, and the most upbeat since the recession. According to NAIAS Chairman Jim Seavitt, public ticket sales are up at least 20% this year, accompanied by a 20% increase in media registrations for the press days. There will be plenty of events, excitement and competition with over 50 vehicle unveilings scheduled. With industry buzz, numerous awards, and, most importantly, the manufacturers messages to consumers, the NAIAS will be critical to kick off 2013 successfully. Let's look at two anticipated unveilings, the Lincoln MKC and Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, and consider why manufacturer's like Ford (NYSE: F  ) and General Motors (NYSE: GM  ) are counting on these vehicles.

Time to reinvent Lincoln
Lincoln Motor, Ford's all but dead luxury brand, has been on a consistent decline since the '90s. In fact, last year, the Mustang outsold the entire Lincoln line by itself. 

  2012
MKZ 28053
MKS 12524
Town Car 1001
MKX 25107
MKT 7094
Navigator 8371
Lincoln Brand Total 82150
   
Ford Mustang 82995

With that woeful performance, Lincoln/Ford is eying the fastest growing market in luxury, the small sport utility segment. The segment that accounts for a 200% growth in the last four years, and is wide open for a company to claim dominance. "No one has established long-term dominance in this segment," said Jim Farley, the executive vice president of global marketing, sales, and service at Lincoln. "This is our next opportunity." 

Take a look

Ford's picking a good time to refocus goals on its luxury brand; with transaction prices consistently moving upwards, luxury vehicles should gain momentum. Time will tell if Lincoln can turn its dismal sales around and take market share in the luxury market. It definitely needs the MKC to create some buzz and excitement for the brand. One thing is for sure, with the Mustang alone outselling the entire Lincoln brand, any incremental sales will help. If they happen to hit a home run, similar to the '90s Lincoln Navigator, the market is open for a new leader. 

The 2013 NAIAS show gives Ford a prime opportunity to show off the sleek design and attract the media buzz, but it's taking it a step further. This year Ford flipped the bill for 150 popular bloggers, from any background, to visit the auto show and share their experiences on their blog site. They weren't compensated for their time, only travel and meals. To no one's surprise their opinions were very pro-Ford -- what's important is that their opinions reach an audience not typically looking deeply into the automotive industry. Little marketing strategies like this can pay off big when reaching unique or on the fence audiences. Well played, Ford. 

Ford is trying to revive its luxury brand that isn't pulling its own weight, and reaching out to unique audiences using the NAIAS as a showroom. Investors should keep an eye on Lincoln over the next five years, and should remain optimistic as sales will improve with fresh vehicles and marketing campaigns.Ford's a tough act to follow, so what does its Detroit competitor General Motors have planned?

Eight long years
GM has consistently lost market share in the U.S., which it personally blames on its old vehicle lineups. Since coming out of bankruptcy, it's taken longer to refresh designs, but this year it begins an 18 month overhaul. GM's message, to consumers and investors alike, is simple: Give us 18 months to prove that we're producing the best vehicles in Detroit. It's certainly talking the talk, and the NAIAS show provides the perfect time to start its portfolio refresh.

GM is using its muscle to produce jaw-dropping responses. Fans have been waiting eight years for the seventh-generation Corvette, and it doesn't disappoint. It's sleek design and features are aimed to please more than just fans; it's intended to re-spark the dull Chevrolet brand image. "We want to reinforce the fact that it is a halo product and tie it closely to the Chevrolet brand," said Chris Perry, Chevy vice president for marketing.

Take a look
 

The Corvette represented less than 1% of Chevrolet's sales last year; it won't help win back market share with its sales alone. However, its value as an iconic brand image will be essential to attracting attention to Chevrolet's portfolio turnaround over the next 18 months.

Bottom line
Investors in either company will have a lot to watch over the next few years. GM's complete overhaul will have its competitors on edge, and paying close attention. The battle for the most profitable market in the U.S., trucks, is also heating up. GM is releasing the next generation Silverado mid-2013, while Ford tries its best to convince consumers to wait for its new truck to hit the showrooms in 2014. A clear No. 1 in Detroit could be decided over the next five years, and while a rising tide raises all boats, those who invest in the better-positioned company will be well rewarded.

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