The price war that boosted U.S. car sales to record levels over the past several weeks probably will continue, in one form or another, throughout much of the 1986 model year, ranking Chrysler Corp. officials said yesterday.
The results will be better deals for new-car buyers, particularly those purchasing economy cars, and a loss of market share for the nation's two largest auto makers, the officials said.
The competition in the U.S. car market will be fueled by the Japanese, according to Chrysler's president, Harold K. Sperlich, and vice chairman, Gerald Greenwald.
So-called voluntary restraints on Japanese exports to this country were raised last March 31 by 24 percent to 2.3 million cars a year from a previous annual level of 1.85 million.
That increase already is showing up in the U.S. market, according to auto industry analysts at Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc. Japanese passenger cars took 18.6 percent of the U.S. new-car market for the first seven months of this year, up from 17.4 percent a year ago, the analysts said. The total import share of the U.S. market for the period was 24.2 percent, up from 22.6 percent a year ago.
The competition will get hotter, particularly for subcompacts and compacts, which now constitute about 55 percent of new-car sales in the United States, Greenwald said at Chrysler's 1986-model introduction yesterday in Detroit. The sales environment "will be pretty damned hostile," Greenwald said.
As a result, customers can expect price breaks to continue, Sperlich said.
"Simply stated, 1986 begins a new era -- the era of the customer," Sperlich said. "We've all been in this business long enough to know that, when supply exceeds demand, prices fall and the customer makes out."