Thursday, January 13, 2011

Autos Accelerating

The Lehmann Letter (SM)

The latest Detroit auto show, with its new cars and new concepts for future models, is emblematic of the domestic industry's turnaround. Ford is strong and Chrysler and GM have successfully emerged from their restructurings. It's a new day.

This morning's New York Times published an article by Bill Vlasic and Nick Bunkley describing the benefits accruing to Big Three autoworkers from the industry's recent success:

The Commerce Department recently reported that December new-vehicle sales rose to 12.5 million: (Scroll down to Motor vehicles under Supplemental Estimates. See table 6 at the bottom of the Excel spreadsheet and look at column I.)

Now update the chart with that 12.5 million figure, and you can gauge the rebound's strength.

New-Vehicle Sales

(Click on chart to enlarge.)

Recessions shaded

The chart also reveals how far automakers must climb before they reach their former plateau. (These figures are for all makes - domestic and imported - sold in the US.) It will be a while before sales hit 15 million, let alone the 17-million average the industry enjoyed for over a decade.

Over half a century ago the head of GM said that what is good for America is good for GM and vice versa. In the 1960s GM was the world's biggest and most prosperous carmaker. It had a stellar reputation for efficiency and progressiveness.

Now GM must rebuild, as must all firms that sell in the US market. They will need new vehicles that represent new ideas.

But part of the industry's future is beyond its control. The big question is: Will American households once again channel so many of their assets and so much of their debt toward the automobile?

(The chart was taken from [Click on Seminars and then Charts.] Go there for additional charts on the economy and a list of economic indicators.)

© 2011 Michael B. Lehmann

No comments: