If you look very carefully, once a month you're guaranteed to find something that's actually "fun" to read in TheWall Street Journal.
That something is the paper's "Hot Off the Lot" column, which checks in monthly on the popularity of various makes and models of vehicles being sold on America's new car lots (based on data from J.D. Power & Associates). The July results, which came out earlier this month, contained quite a revelation for analysts who have grown accustomed to seeing GM
Now many will say that the Sky's success is a mere anomaly, and indeed, the Journal included a footnote cautioning readers to take this month's results with a grain of salt because of the "small sample size" used as the basis for this report. But at this point, GM should take bragging rights wherever it can get them.
It's also worth pointing out that a few months back, J.D. Power ran its annual new car "initial quality" survey, showing that GM has made progress in rebuilding its image as a maker of quality automobiles. GM's Chevrolet brand joined GMC and Cadillac in the top 50% of cars showing the fewest defects after 90 days of service. (Incidentally, rival Ford's
But the initial quality survey's most shocking news was on Toyota. On Friday, the Japanese car titan announced that it may delay introduction of new vehicle models by as much as six months as it tries to fix a disturbing run of problems that have led to product recalls in recent years. In what now looks like foreshadowing, the initial quality survey showed that Toyota, its luxury Lexus brand, and its "cool" new Scion unit each declined in quality versus 2005. Moreover, for the first time in four years, Lexus didn't claim the top spot on the initial quality survey, ceding it to Porsche (though Lexus did keep its No. 1 ranking in J.D. Power's recent durability survey).
And yet, to return to the Journal's "Hot Off the Lot" column, Toyota brands comprised seven of the top 10 fastest-selling cars in America last month. Which suggests to this Fool that the quality-control initiative Toyota announced this morning isn't a moment too soon. For now, the company's sales can coast on the cushion of its reputation for past reliability. But if it lets quality slide as GM improves its game, pretty soon the Sky won't be GM's only "hot" rod.
Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy requires him to tell you that, but it doesn't say he has to mention he drives a Chevy S-10. (Oops.)