DETROIT - Automakers soon may surrender more power to parts makers and dealers. In a new world envisioned by industry consultant J. Ferron, automakers will take their directions from those with access to consumers and information on what buyers want.
Ferron believes the shift will make carmakers essentially ``equal partners'' with others in the industry - not the leading forces.
``Until now, the automaker has been in the center of the solar system,'' said Ferron, partner in charge of the Automotive Practice of Coopers & Lybrand in Detroit. ``Suppliers and retailers have been like the planets, revolving around the manufacturer. The manufacturer dictates the market.''
But that power structure is about to change, Ferron predicted at the Automotive News' World Congress, held in Detroit in early January. In the future, the consumer will occupy the center seat. The automaker, suppliers and retail network will revolve around the consumer in an equal partnership, Ferron said.
Others also will enter this power arrangement, he suggested. That might be anyone who can lead the product makers to potential consumers, such as a retailing organization with databases of consumer information.
Why should automakers give up their supreme power in the industry? Because the market is dictating it, Ferron said.
``It doesn't matter how good your product is any more,'' Ferron said. ``Quality is a given. What matters now is how quickly you can respond to market information with the right product at the right moment.''
Ferron described the current industry structure as a ``push'' system. Automakers essentially create products and push them down the pipeline to retailers, who in turn push them onto consumers. He said the industry must become a ``pull'' system in which consumers show a desire for a product and pull the retailer toward fulfilling their need.