Auto show displays new trend, lower prices

January 8, 2009 11:47:39 PM PST
Day one of the Silicon Valley International Auto Show ended around 10 p.m. on Thursday night. It's a tough time to sell a car, but the economy is pushing some auto makers to create new trends and new incentives to lure customers.

At this year's International Auto Show in San Jose, the sales pitches keep coming, even though many consumers this year are just here to browse.

It's a sign of the times. Industry-wide auto sales were down 30 percent last month and those who are buying have changed what they're looking for.

"We try to buy the higher mileage, higher miles per gallon," said Peter Petboris, from San Jose.

Manufacturers are responding to customer demand for more fuel efficient cars. In years past, there were only two manufacturers that offered hybrids at this show. This year, there are 12.

Chevrolet is releasing four high-mileage cars this year. Still, consumers aren't necessarily getting behind the Big Three, some even wonder how long they'll be around.

"Ford, GM, Chrysler, they're all falling apart," said Mark O'Connor, from Sunnyvale.

"I wouldn't touch them with a stick," said Jim Noble, a customer.

Chrysler is at its lowest. Last year, Toyota Camrys out sold the entire fleet of Chryslers. Still, Normandin Chrysler Jeep dealership's president insists there is still a viable market for domestic cars.

"I think GM has been around a long time and they'll find a way to make it. I think the American people would like to see an American company survive," said Mark Normandin, from Normandin Chrysler Jeep.

"It's not my job to save them. It's their job to create a product that matches what the foreign companies are able to do," said Jim Voreyer, from Sunnyvale.

While the auto show is not a place to actually buy a car, it is a place to price check. Dealerships are offering unprecedented incentives. This one in Arizona is offering a buy one, get the other for 99 cents. It's a survival tool those in the auto industry never imagined they'd use.