Best-Kept Secret in America: Ford, Toyota Gaining and Could Overtake GM; I Wonder Why?

While the business press has been preoccupied with day-to-day events in the ongoing saga of Government, er, General Motors, it has failed to note that its two closest competitors have gained substantial ground -- and quickly.

This chart shows just how quickly (Sources - Feb. and March 2009January GM and FordJanuary ToyotaDecember 2008):

GMvFordToyotaDec08toMarch09

Gosh, I wonder why this has happened?

For three months going on four, virtually no one in the press has looked into reasons for the clear consumer shunning of GM, let alone the combined gains made by Toyota and Ford. Yes, the industry as a whole is in a slump, but, as you can see, that is nowhere near the whole story.

The government bailouts of GM and Chrysler were announced on December 20. I believe that Toyota's dramatic gain in January occurred largely because of consumers' negative reactions to those bailouts. Alternative explanations for such a dramatic shift are in short supply. The only question is how much of the shift occurred for principled reasons (not wanting to buy from a bailed-out company) as opposed to practical ones (long-term concerns about warranties and repairs).

Ford's gain on GM has been more gradual. I believe this is because early media coverage of the GM and Chrysler bailouts frequently referred to "the domestic auto industry" as a whole and to "Detroit," and significantly downplayed Ford's non-participation. As consumer awareness of Ford's non-bailed-out status has gradually grown, so have its sales as a percentage of GM's, though mostly at the expense of Toyota.

The above results have occurred during just the first three months after the government first "lent" GM and Chrysler bailout funds. In late March, President Obama and his car czars took their intervention to the next level. GM CEO Rick Wagoner resigned "at Obama's behest." Obama deliberately and visibly decided that the government would back GM's and Chrysler's warranties. As of this morning, it has become clear that Uncle Sam and the United Auto Worders are gunning for dominant control of whatever is left of both companies.

What if the backlash against the bailed-out also has accelerated further in reaction to the government's actions during the past month? If it hasn't, why has GM, which made a big deal of not needing a bailout installment seven short weeks ago, rushed into 9-week shutdowns at most of its plants? Why is there so much talk of a smaller, leaner GM?

If there has indeed been a bigger backlash against the bailed-out, April's sales results (or May's, or June's) may break news that was unthinkable as little as six months ago: that General Motors, for the first time in 80 years, is no longer the USA's number one automaker. If that happens, it will be a big surprise to casual news consumers. It shouldn't be, and wouldn't be, but for myopic establishment media coverage.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.