The fat lady has not sung
Keith Crain is editor-in-chief of Automotive News.
Anyone who thinks the automobile industry finally has settled down to some sort of calmness is sadly mistaken.
Rarely has there been an extended period of tranquility in the automobile business. In the United States, perhaps in the 1960s, the industry had a certain amount of stability until the oil crisis of the early 1970s.
In the next decade or so, we'll see plenty of commotion in the United States and even more in the rest of the world.
Take the Chinese for example. They have lots of money to launch and sustain as many businesses as they wish. The only questions involve where, with how much effort and when.
Their foray into Australia hasn't gone so well. It was discovered that Chinese cars sold in Australia contained asbestos, and they had to be recalled. I wonder what will happen to all the cars with asbestos that have been sold in China. Will those cars be ignored?
The economic crisis that is hampering Europe will have a profound impact on the automobile business. There will be further buyouts and mergers and companies that will sort of fade away.
You can't predict the full impact of the financial crisis, but one thing is certain: The automobile industry will be affected, suppliers as well as automakers.
It will affect dealers, too, as automobile brands come and go. Automobile companies will continue to rely on franchised dealers to sell and service their cars and trucks. To do otherwise would require an amount of capital that few if any could spare for distribution.
Emerging markets in Asia and South America will have new companies to serve the motoring needs of their consumers. They will have big risks with big rewards.
This never has been a business for the faint of heart. That has been true for decades and will continue for the foreseeable future. It will take a lot of very bright people for existing companies to survive.
If you wonder what could change, consider the fortunes of two companies: RIM, which was behind the BlackBerry, and Apple.
Nothing stays the same for long. And the fat lady hasn't even started to warm up her voice.
You can reach Keith Crain at firstname.lastname@example.org.