This is an excerpt of remarks Wagoner made at the J.D. Power and Associates International Automotive Roundtable Jan. 31 in San Francisco.
We're at the beginning of what we will someday call one of the greatest periods in the history of the auto industry.
Ten years ago, in 1993, the U.S. industry sold 14 million vehicles. A little low for that era, but we thought 15 million units was a decent year. Back then, who would have ever thought that we'd run at about 17 million units for four years in a row?
How many more years of 17 million sales before we begin to see it as the norm? Or even less than the norm? We might be much closer than many people think.
One reason is simple demographics. The U.S. population is growing faster than many expected. For example, the 2000 Census measured the U.S. population at 282 million - some 6 million more people than predicted.
The United States is the only developed country that has a birth rate close to replacement level right now. And unlike most other developed markets - including Japan and Western Europe - the United States is expected to continue growing, with 26 million more people by 2010, and another 26 million people by 2020.
Also, baby boomers - the largest generation in U.S. history - are moving into their peak earning and consuming years. The youngest boomers are just hitting 40, with a lot of potential vehicle purchases ahead of them. Pre-boomers are living longer and buying vehicles longer, too.