SAN FRANCISCO - Saying that the industry is on the verge of a golden age, General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner declared he has had enough of critics who claim his use of incentives is hurting the industry.
"I say it's time to stop whining and play the game," Wagoner told an industry audience on the eve of the National Automobile Dealers Association convention here. "Looking at GM, we're going to do what's best for us."
Citing his company's gains in profits and market share last year, Wagoner added: "What I know is that GM's strategy is working very well for us. So guess what? This year we're going to keep pushing."
But Wagoner also said the industry is on the verge of a strong growth period, bolstered by rapid growth in China, vehicle affordability and U.S. population growth.
"I believe we're at the beginning of what we will someday look back on and call one of the great periods of automotive history," Wagoner said. He spoke at the J.D. Power and Associates Industry Automotive Roundtable on Friday, Jan. 31.
GM's internal forecasts call for a 1.8 million increase in demand in the United States in the rest of the decade, Wagoner said.
To capture the growth, he said, the industry must:
"If we address this issue by adding cost to the vehicle for forcing consumers into vehicles they don't want to buy, we're going to lose sales," he said.
Declining prices put the onus on automakers to operate efficiently by cutting costs, improving reliability and streamlining their organizations, he said.
Wagoner said incentives will ease when demand rises in better economic times.
But in the meantime, automakers should adapt to the market reality, he said: "A new American automotive boom is ours to lose. Let's not screw it up."