DETROIT — Bob Lutz is the global marketing chief and vice chairman for General Motors. He said that GM is set to start making money sometime within the next year. The automaker is in the process of rolling out many new vehicles and replacing some older models with new ones.
Additional speakers at the 21st Annual Society of Automotive Analysts (SAA) Automotive Outlook Conference were John McElroy (host of Autoline Detroit), Neil De Koker (President and CEO of the Original Equipment Suppliers Association; John Casesa (Managing Partner of Casesa Shapiro Group, LLC) and Justin Mirro (Managing Director of Moelis & Company).
“There are times in the past year or 18 months that it became over for GM,” Lutz said. “Now as this new decade begins, I have to say our future ain’t what it used to be because it is in fact much, much brighter. If everything goes along, normally, we will recover. All of the signs are there. Job losses have slowed. Our retail sales were up seven percent. We gained two points in U.S. retail market share. Our four core brands, that are remaining with GM, are getting healthy.”
The GM vice chairman highlighted the Chevy Volt, which is going into production right now. It will be in dealerships around the end of this year. The first batteries for the Volt were made last Thursday at the automaker’s Brownstown, Mich. plant. The Chevy Cruze will serve as the replacement for the Cobalt. The Cadillac XTS will replace the Deville model.
“We lost 50 percent of the employment in the supplier industry,” said Neil De Koker, President and CEO of the Original Equipment Supplier Association (OESA). “New talent is attracted to automotive. We have great export opportunities. We need to take advantage of that. It is a slow recovery. The only big concern is Chrysler. They don’t have new product in the pipeline.”
The Obama administration hopes to have one million hybrid electric vehicles on the road in the U.S. by 2015, according to PriceWaterhouseCoopers. Chrysler and Ford have plug-ins and pure electric vehicles (PEVs) scheduled to launch at the end of the year. Toyota is developing a plug-in version of its gas-electric hybrid and Nissan is releasing its Leaf electric vehicle in the end of 2010. In addition, there are about 30 new companies that are coming out with electric vehicles.
“New brands are not subject to state franchise laws,” said John Casesa, Managing Partner of Casesa Shaprio Group LLC. “The auto industry is an era of massive structural change. A sharp rebound for the industry is probable. It will start to make a lot of money out of this. Globalization is imperative.The big restructuring phase is over. Lots of assets for sale around the world.”
John McElroy is the host of Autoline Detroit, an auto industry television show. He said last year we were wondering if the auto industry would survive. “Now, we’re wondering how fast the market will recover,” McElroy said. “We’re coming to the show with $3 million invested in lighting and electrical to Cobo. This town is going to rock and roll again.”
He added: “We’re bringing in EVs (electric vehicles) from all over the world. EV’s are not going to take over the world. The Prius accounts for half of the market. CT&T United, a Korean company, hopes to take over the world. EV’s will not bea significant part of the market for well over a decade. Nissan dropped out of every auto show but they’re having the Leaf.”
GM’s global marketing chief and vice chairman said the automaker hopes to sell between 11 million and 12 million vehicles in 2010. “I think after 2010, on the highside of ’11, we’ll do even better,” Lutz added. “We do have an aging car market. Right now the level of sales in the U.S. industry is not covering the replacement demand. Sooner or later, people are going to have to buy cars, trucks, SUVs and crossovers.”
For more information on the Society of Automotive Analysts, visit www.cybersaa.org.