A new numbers game for suppliers

These days it seems inconceivable that Chevrolet sold 1 million Impalas in 1965.

This occurred to me after J.D. Power's Jeff Schuster shared his 2011 North American production forecast for some key models that have been redesigned. Schuster predicts:

• Chrysler will produce 185,000 Chargers and 300s.

• Ford will produce 120,000 Explorer SUVs and 260,000 Focus cars.

• Honda will produce 150,000-plus Odyssey minivans.

Folks, these are modest numbers. In the 1990s, Ford produced 400,000-plus Explorers a year. Likewise, the Odyssey, Charger, 300 and Focus all once generated more robust production.

Yes, I know the industry isn't selling 16 million-plus units a year, and I know consumers have lots more models to choose from.

But when top models generate only fair-to-middling volumes, automakers will face increasing pressure to standardize components across multiple platforms. Underneath the skin, cars will be more and more alike. It's the only way to make money.

What's the bottom line for suppliers? If you can design a component that can easily be adapted for small cars, family sedans, wagons and crossovers, you can make a lot of money. Our new motto: One size fits all.

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