The Road Ahead: Auto Insiders Predict Big Gains For Detroit's Big Three

January 6, 2011


Yesterday, we spent a little time looking back at 2010, so it's only fair that we now turn 180 degrees and look at what the future holds for America's automakers. Thankfully, the folks at KPMG LLP are one step ahead of us: they've already distributed their annual questionnaire about tomorrow's auto markets to 200 industry insiders. If you're a Detroit fan, you'll want to read what they had to say.

Of America's Big Three, Chrysler has had the toughest time recovering from the recent recession. The company lacks the resources of its bailout buddy, GM, and it emerged from bankruptcy with very few new models in the works. Under Sergio Marchionne's leadership, however, Chrysler has begun to bounce back, and a number of KPMG's respondents see the automaker gaining global market share over the next five years. In fact, 24% of them predict that will happen -- a significant improvement over the mere 7.5% who thought so last year. Maybe their opinions changed when they saw Chrysler creep from 8.9% to 9.4% of global market share in 2010. 

General Motors fared next-best in KPMG's survey, with 40% of respondents predicting an increase in GM's global share. That's much, much better than last year's 13% -- and it's somewhat surprising, too, given GM's slip from 19.8% of global sales in 2009 to 19.1% in 2010.

KPMG's respondents saved their best predictions for Ford: in all, 43% of the auto industry execs surveyed foresee Ford gaining global market share over the next five years, up from 29% in 2010. Not surprisingly, Ford also had the strongest growth of the three last year, surging from 15.5% of global sales in 2009 to 16.7% in 2010.

Our thoughts?

An unofficial office poll shows that our own predictions are mostly in line with those of KPMG's bigwigs. Ford's leadership seems particularly strong at the moment, so we fully expect to see gains there. Chrysler's share will improve, but the company will be outpaced by Ford and GM until Marchionne firms up and implements his strategy for the brand outside the U.S.

Where we differ a bit from KPMG's respondents is on GM -- frankly, we're a little more bullish on the company's future. Not only has GM begun to recover from its bankruptcy-related image problems, but it's also rolling out some great technology that should draw younger buyers to its family of brands. And let's not forget China, where GM is a big player in a big, growing market. Perhaps best of all, GM's marketing team is ramping up some aggressive social media campaigns. All good signs.

If you're a real fan of the Big Three, stay tuned for our full, on-the-spot coverage of the upcoming 2011 Detroit Auto Show.


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