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Time is right to take the ‘plunge’ for new car, house

September 6, 2009
By LARRY RINGLER Tribune Chronicle

If a new car or house are on your wish list, you might not find a better time than now to take the plunge.

This isn't to drum up business for the nation's two largest economic consumer engines but rather to point out that all the stars, the moon, tea leaves, chicken entrails and any other forecasting tool you favor are about as good as they'll get. You don't want to know if they're not.

Besides money, car shoppers can take comfort in the idea that today's vehicles are no doubt the best in terms of quality, comfort, safety and most other measures.

And, yes, that goes for American-made cars, not just Japanese or German.

It was interesting in last week's Consumer Reports survey about factors people weigh when buying a vehicle and that they didn't mention worries about quality when considering a General Motors Corp. or Ford product.

They worried about GM's future, and they weren't attracted to the automaker's vehicles. Definitely significant issues. GM believes it can ease those worries with a slew of new models it's bringing out, ranging from the just-introduced Chevrolet Camaro muscle car to next April's Cruze import-fighting small car to be built at our Lordstown Complex as a 2011 model.

If the products are right, worries about the company's viability will take care of themselves.

Also interesting in the Consumer Report survey was an overwhelming number - 81 percent - of buyers responded by saying they are likely to consider buying a vehicle made by GM, Ford or Chrysler.

That shows people are thinking American, even if they're not always buying American. Buyers haven't given up on American automakers. Staying on their radar screen is a critical first step toward winning them back. Now, it's up to the automakers to do so.

One item that kind of tags the new breed of buyer as savvy and willing to go where they're treated best was the low emphasis on brand.

It used to be people would identify themselves as Chevy, Ford, Dodge or what-have-you guys. They swore by those brands.

Not so much anymore. Brand came in eighth on a list of 13 reasons people gave for buying a vehicle at just 14 percent of new-vehicle buyers.

First was, believe it or not, fuel economy at 46 percent. Can anyone imagine miles per gallon topping most shoppers' list 20 years ago?

Second was quality at 42 percent, followed by safety at 39 percent and price at 36 percent - all way above brand loyalty.

Being ''green'' was next below brand at 13 percent. It could be considered part of fuel economy, but buyers apparently still have yet to tune heavily into environmentally friendly wheels.

Given the way safety and quality have surpassed brand loyalty, however, going ''green'' may top some future list.

In the meantime, check out the deals and financing packages. Then enjoy the ride.



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