From Akerson To Ghosn, The Mood Of Industry Leaders Darkens

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

Industry leaders, usually known for their unfatiguing optimism, are more and more taking a cautious stance. GM’s CEO Dan Akerson predicts flat industrywide U.S. auto sales in 2012, while his colleague Carlos Ghosn, chief of Renault and Nissan, has feelings of “very great uncertainty” when he looks toward 2012.

In an interview with Automotive News [sub], Akerson said GM predicts “flattish” U.S. light-vehicle sales for next year. And that only if Europe’s debt crisis is not contagious and won’t affect the U.S. economy. Akerson sees the EU crisis as the biggest threat to auto sales and to the global economy.

For 2011, GM predicts U.S. light-vehicle sales will finish at around 12.7 million or 12.8 million, and for 2012, there won’t be much more: “As we go into ’12, we’re looking for kind of a repeat of ’11,” Akerson said. The pent-up demand will have to remain pent-up for a while.

Meanwhile in France, Carlos Ghosn said that “for 2012, we are all currently in a state of very great uncertainty for the time being.” Ghosn also fingered the debt crisis as a threat. Ghosn told Reuters that there “could be some grounds for optimism in 2012 if Europe managed to solve its sovereign debt crisis.” However, he does not see that happening anytime soon, because countries are not in agreement on the measures needed.

This time around, it also does not look like China will bail out the auto industry, as it happened in 2009 and 2010. At the Global Automotive Forum in Chengdu last week, none of the captains of the Chinese car industry doubted China’s long-term potential. But all were in agreement that next year, the industry won’t see much growth.

In Japan? Don’t ask.

Bertel Schmitt
Bertel Schmitt

Bertel Schmitt comes back to journalism after taking a 35 year break in advertising and marketing. He ran and owned advertising agencies in Duesseldorf, Germany, and New York City. Volkswagen A.G. was Bertel's most important corporate account. Schmitt's advertising and marketing career touched many corners of the industry with a special focus on automotive products and services. Since 2004, he lives in Japan and China with his wife <a href=""> Tomoko </a>. Bertel Schmitt is a founding board member of the <a href=""> Offshore Super Series </a>, an American offshore powerboat racing organization. He is co-owner of the racing team Typhoon.

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  • Brettc Brettc on Oct 19, 2011

    I don't plan on buying any new vehicles either. Maybe in 2-4 years but that's it. Our cars are still in decent shape and are low mileage for TDIs. Plus I just got brand new fenders on my wife's 2000 Jetta courtesy of VW's rust TSB. Instead of buying cars, we're working on building up a nice chunk of savings and will be refinancing our house to probably a 15 year mortgage. It'll be "Freedom 49" for me if I can pay off the house in 15 years.

  • Ez Ez on Oct 19, 2011

    As the baby boomers retire they will tend to back off on purchases. This is because they will be on a fixed income and dont' have expectations of higher income as time goes on. With Europe they are simply being dragged down by enormouse debt and spending that cannot be continued. The US is not far behind. Read this article by Micael Lewis at Vanity Fair(strange source for an article on economics) to get a taste of what will be our fate if spending doesn't match our growth. There is a saying that What cannot go on forever will not go on forever.

  • Probert A few mega packs would probably have served as decent backup.
  • Lou_BC Lead sleds. Now-a-days GM would just use Bondo.
  • Jrhurren This is a great series. Thanks Corey
  • Tane94 Not as stylish as the Soul which it is replacing but a practical shape and bonus points for EV only.
  • Ronin What is the magical white swan event in the foreseeable future that will suddenly reverse the trend?Success tends to follow success, and likewise failure. The perception, other than among true believers, is that e-cars are a lost cause. Neither government fiat, nor government bribery, nor even the promise of superior virtue among one's peers have been enough to push past the early adapter curve. Either the bust-out is right now for e-cars, or it doesn't happen. Marketing 101.Even subtle language-manipulation, such as deeming those possessing common sense as suffering from some sort of vague anxiety (eg, "range anxiety") has not been enough to induce people to care.Twenty years from now funny AI-generated comedians will make fun of the '20s, and their obsession with theose silly half-forgotten EVs. They will point out that, yes, EVs actually ran on electricity generated by such organic fuels as coal and natural gas after all, and then they will perform synthesized laughter at us.