DETROIT - Art Spinella believes 17 million light-vehicle sales could be just one year away for the U.S. auto industry.
If the economy remains strong and automakers continue to hold prices and introduce new products, sales of new light vehicles could reach or surpass 17 million units in 2000, said Spinella, an automotive analyst with CNW Market-ing/Research in Bandon, Ore.
That's the good news. The bad news is the auto industry had the potential to reach 17 million in 1997 and 1998 but came up short, he told industry officials and economists during a presentation on Wednesday, Jan. 20, in Troy, Mich.
'Consumer confidence was strong enough. The population was big enough. Disposable income was good enough,' Spinella said.
The main problem is consumer perception of how affordable new vehicles are. Although an increasing number of consumers find new vehicles affordable, Spinella said, the industry needs to convince more consumers by holding prices.
Adjusting for growing consumer confidence and its historic relationship to automotive sales, he said combined new-vehicle sales for the past four years should have been up by 6.6 million units. He's optimistic about 1999, forecasting new-vehicle sales as high as 15.8 million.