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The past couple of months, Toyota's recall fiasco has scuffed the automaker's image, but over the last year and a half, General Motors may have fared far worse. Between its bankruptcy, restructuring, dealer cuts, and brand wind-downs, GM has been hit with a barrage of criticism from the government, employees (current and former), and the general public. That makes GM's current sales stats doubly surprising, because the automaker is still faring well in showrooms -- considerably better than any other brand in America. And although George Magliano, director of automotive research at IHS Global Insight, says GM won't remain quite so high on the scale, it'll still remain on top.
According to the most recent national sales stats, General Motors holds just above 19% of the U.S. auto market. Magliano predicts that number will slip by a couple of percentage points to settle around 17%, due largely to Toyota's speedy recovery from its PR troubles. Toyota is now hovering around 13.4% -- a notable drop from its 2009 average of 16.9% -- but it's on the rebound. Said Magliano: "[Toyota] will get baby boomers back when they get the recall behind them. But the first-time conquest buyer is going to be a struggle, and that's why they are spending lots of money [on incentives] now."
Ford will suffer at Toyota's hands too, shaving nearly a percentage point off its current position to tie Toyota for second place at 16% of U.S. market share. Rounding out the other top spots on Magliano's list: Honda at 12%, and Chrysler, Hyundai, Kia, and Nissan each at 7%.
Magliano agrees with many other analysts in seeing slow but steady improvement in the U.S. economy. He sees the auto market on the move too, thanks to (a) an onslaught of incentives for shoppers -- averaging $6500 per vehicle -- and (b) loosening credit markets that improve buyers' chances for financing. According to IHS, those and other factors will drive U.S. sales of new cars and trucks to around 14 million this year. That's a bit higher than most stats we've seen, but then, we've also seen some fairly impressive marketing campaigns for rides like the 2011 Ford Fiesta, not to mention buzz around new tech vehicles like the 2011 Nissan Leaf. At the very least, those will generate some attention for automakers; combine that with some pent-up desire for conspicuous consumption, and sales could tick upward dramatically.