Ask any sales and marketing executive from Chrysler, Ford or General Motors what their company's greatest challenge is and they will unequivocally reply, "California." The Golden State accounts for 12.5 percent of all new car sales in the United States, but even more importantly, it is seen as a bellwether for the nation. As the home of the entertainment and consumer electronics industries, California has an outsized reach into our nation's popular culture – but Californians have historically been among the least receptive to domestic products.
There's some evidence that trend may be changing, as domestic market share has been improving in the recent years, according to Forbes. Ford has seen its Blue Oval brand improve from seven percent in 2008 to over nine percent last year. Chevrolet topped six percent last year after three years of growth. Even Chrysler, which had a market share of less than four percent in 2010, has seen growth – to five percent in 2011 and almost six percent so far this year.
Still, those numbers are a pittance compared to the import brands. According to The Detroit News, domestic automakers have a combined 30.8 percent share in California, well below their 44.3 percent national average. The domestics' recent growth in California – the Japanese and Korean manufacturers' "home turf" – has certainly been helped by supply shortages at Honda and Toyota, companies beset by natural disasters last year.
If domestic automakers are going to continue to take share from foreign competition, they're going to have to have more success stories like the recent surge in Chevrolet Volt sales, a phenomenon spurred by the availability of High Occupancy Vehicle lane stickers for GM's plug-in hybrid. There's also an inevitable demographic shift that could benefit Detroit, as domestic-hating Baby Boomers give way to younger buyers with no memory of Detroit's dark decades in the 1970s and 1980s.