The Depressing Reality Of Camaro Production Numbers

GM delivered 46,378 new Camaros to dealers between January and June 2010. A darling of automotive press since the announcement of its return, the Camaro has actually turned out to be another case example, along with the Ford Mustang and Dodge Challenger, of how going retro is a really bad business decision.

The Camaro is a good performer on the road, but it isn’t from a business standpoint — although you’d never know by reading the mainstream and enthusiast automotive publications. Analyze the production and sales reports and compare to historical figures, though, and it becomes very clear.

The last generation Camaro’s final year was 2002. That year 42,098 units were produced during the entire run. While it might initially seem like the current Camaro is twice as successful, readers must keep in mind that the elder Camaro had to compete against its F-body fraternal twin, the Pontiac Firebird, of which 30,690 units were produced. The whole F-body car program had been slated for the buzzsaw years before, so production and sales in 2002 was done with minimal marketing support.

The current Camaro team has leveraged hundreds of millions of dollars in marketing and pr, plus additional hundreds of millions in product development…not to mention placement in seemingly every major automotive magazine each month for over a year. Still, the current Camaro is only 9,984 units ahead at the six-month point (on pace for 19,968 additional annual units) than the last gasp of the F-body car line killed for its poor sales. Even worse, in 1997 with a sagging coupe market (remember this is the era when the RX-7 and Supra left the American market?) and a four-year-old body style, the Camaro alone logged 95,812 delivery units, not to mention an additional 30,754 Firebirds over at Pontiac.

It is also safe to expect that four years into the new Camaro’s life, production figures will mostly likely amplify the failures of its product plan. Analysis of sales and production results from all manufacturers conclude that a retro car’s product lifecycle is much shorter, because the look appeals to fewer people as the novelty value wears quickly.

Meanwhile Honda logged 133,601 deliveries through June (on pace to 267K-plus annual units) of the real modern interpretation of the original low-buck, high-fun pony car for early-twentysomethings, the Civic. Hopefully Honda’s executive team in 2050 doesn’t pull a GM — or Ford, for that matter, and build cars that look like the 2010 Civic, because that’s what looks good to the 65-year-old executives, rather than the product’s actual target market.

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7 Responses to The Depressing Reality Of Camaro Production Numbers

  1. felix Lee says:

    The author of this article forget to mention two critical aspect of the American motoring public:

    The average age of this county is now 38 – the entire country is aging. Aging boomers don’t buy sports cars.

    Annual sales of vehicles normally should be around 17 million units in this country, after the great recession, the number of units dropped to 9 million (2009 statistics). Honda and Toyota and the rest of the auto industry all suffered.

    Thus, this article compare 2010 figures to figures ten years ago is meaningless.

  2. Felix,
    I’m sorry, but as a former marketing guy, I’m hitting my buzzer.

    While you are correct that the median age of the US has increased to its highest ever — it currently stands (according to our own government’s CIA) at 36.8 years. It was 32.9 in 1990. While this is an interesting figure, it has little bearing on the topic.

    You actually address the crux of the matter when you said “Aging boomers don’t buy sports cars”. Exactly (actually, it is true of cheap-to-mid-priced sports cars, not accurate for highline/exotics)– if they don’t buy non-exotic sports cars, why design the cars in the sports/pony car market for people who won’t buy them?

    Comparing the 2010 figures to 2000 or 1990 is very important. There was a bad recession in progress in 1990 — the same with 2000. The comparison of aging products in bad economies to a new product in a bad economy is valid when it illustrates the lack of success (even relative to its current competition) in the marketplace.

  3. Mark says:

    All i have to say is that people like you talking about the damn jap cars like they are so wonderful is destroying our nation on your own. if you’ve ever worked on one of those tin can piles of junk you’d realize they are not very nice. Furthermore look at detroit and what those vehicles have done. you turned a ton of plants pumping out tons of cars into a wasteland of junk buildings. i’d just like to say thanks to all you assholes out there driving foreign junk. And dont give me the “but its built here” speech. i drive a california built chevelle as a daily driver. i’m 23 years old, i work for a chevy dealership and i will continue to win the real war and buy american. americans need to have pride

  4. Mark,
    Maybe you’ve been sniffing the fumes too much at the Chevy dealership. If you’re buying a Camaro, you’re buying Canadian. Camaros are built in Oshawa, Ontario. GM again is a publically traded company, so it has investors all over the world, including me.

    While you’re too young to remember, many of those buildings in your “wasteland of junk buildings” were facilities abandoned by General Motors in the 1980s at a time of extremely high profitability.

    Since GM has plenty of partnerships with Japanese companies, one is doing more to save GM by buying a new Toyota than you have by driving a Chevelle, since it puts no new money into the economy…especially if you’re working on the car yourself and not paying the dealership or a private service center.

    And finally, yes, I have worked on Japanese cars. Currently I even own a Japanese car (have owned several), as well as three American (I’ve owned seven Corvettes alone), a Korean, two Italian, and a British (six Triumphs over the years). Sorry to say, Mark, but your personal experience doesn’t hold true to years of research by major studies on reliability. Cost cutting in engineering and crappy materials are alive and well in all companies, including Chevy.

    When you get older and see the world, you’ll start to understand that the market didn’t kill GM nor is the market killing the nation, rather it’s the arrogance and short-sightedness of businesses and government policy coupled with the ignorance and lack of education among the masses.

  5. Dan says:

    Camaro has sold approximately 81,000 cars this year to date and total produced Camaro’s since they came out late 2009 is pegged around 215,000 units. That means GM is producing and selling about or over 100,000 units a year for the last 2 years. Regardless who you compare with its not a fair comparison unless you compare to the same class, Mustang and Challenger ring a bell. Look at the graph and you’ll see Camaro to be the winner in sales 2 years in a row. GM capitalised on this market with a winning product. There is no doubt about that.

    Its likely however that sales will go on a steady decline if models don’t get refreshed or refined. For 2012, GM stated they are improving fuel delivery and exhaust with a new head design for the V6 that will add 11HP and are also coming out with 2 new V8 variants, namely the ZL1 and the 45th anniversary. Smart business decision GM, this should keep things fresh and sales figures stable for the upcoming year.

  6. Dan says:

    How can the writer of this article conclude that reviving the Camaro was a bad business decision when its clearly been at the top of its class in production and sales since it came back. The retro thing is just what’s in style at the moment but when that’s gone, all three will then have to shift and evolve.

    I don’t believe that the retro thing with these cars is what’s causing less sales then the “Civic” but rather the fact that civic is a fuel efficient compact and the way gas prices are going these days, this is a more economically sound decision for those who are looking to save money.

    In a world where fuel was incredibly low cost, parking space sizes were larger and city centers were not so clogged, if the american pony car was the same price as a Civic I’m sure sales figures would be fairly even.

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