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.