The U.S. auto industry may be slogging along in the slow lane, but there's at least one place where American car sales are in high gear. In Germany, long known for its smug sense of carmaking superiority, drivers are forsaking BMWs and Mercedeses for the likes of Chrysler LeBarons, Buick Park Avenues and Jeep Cherokees. About 12,477 American-made cars were registered in Germany during 1990, compared with 357 as recently as 1985--and the number is expected to double by the end of 1991. After 25 years of driving Mercedeses, retired restaurateur Werner Breckner recently bought a Cadillac Brougham d'Elegance. "From now on," he says, "only a Cadillac will do."
Why is the autobahn beginning to go American? The low dollar-to-mark ratio has made U.S.-made cars more affordable. Germans, who once thought of American cars as "flashy," now see them as offering more luxury for their money, says auto analyst Paul Warren-Smith. The trend may not be enough to repair Detroit's battered balance sheets, but its proof that some U.S. models can still be competitive--even in the pickiest of foreign markets.