Predicting sales depends on your perspective

Jim Henry is a special correspondent for Automotive News.
Dealers, auto lenders and the rest of us here at the Automotive Economic Forecast & Financial Forum in Chicago on Monday heard that we should expect a painfully slow recovery.

Bernard Swiecki, senior project manager for the Automotive Analysis Group at the Center for Automotive Research, said U.S. auto sales won't reach 15.7 million until 2017, from about 12.5 million in 2010. I'm not so sure.

For years, beginning in the late 1990s, auto analysts underestimated U.S. auto sales. This was largely because they expected car companies to act rationally. Instead, car companies cut prices and sacrificed profits for market share.

So the fundamental question is: Will car companies accept a gradual recovery, or rush in to grab market share?