And now it's time for a walk on the sunny side of the street.
Even though individual automakers and suppliers are wrestling with challenging issues in North America, you have to admit the industry as a whole is doing better than some experts thought.
Think back to the beginning of the year. The consensus among nine analysts surveyed by Automotive News was that North American light-vehicle sales this year would come in at a flat 16.8 million. Not spectacular, maybe, but strong.
For the record, Efraim Levy of Standard & Poor's was high at 17.0 million, and Van Jolissaint of the Chrysler group was low at 16.6 million.
Even with wimpy sales in May, the seasonally adjusted annual sales rate for the first five months of the year was on target at 16.7 million.
Not bad, you say?
Well, put your feet on the floor and hold on to something solid because Raj Sundaram of Automotive Lease Guide -- who didn't make an earlier prediction for us -- is ready to jump to the next level. He says sales could shatter the 18 million ceiling as soon as 2007. And soar to 19 million two years after that.
For this year, Sundaram says sales will easily top 17 million.
Why? It all starts with product. Automakers will introduce as many as 60 new or significantly redesigned vehicles each year for the next several years instead of the usual 40, he says.
Beyond that, rising interest rates and stable residual values ought to boost leasing by as many as 4 percentage points this year, he says. Used-vehicle prices are greatly improved, and automakers will continue to integrate remarketing into their new-vehicle marketing and sales efforts, which will allow steady growth in resale values.
A lot depends on pricing and incentives, which Sundaram says will grow again this year.
Barring any major shocks to the economy -- another war or a huge run-up in petroleum prices -- it's a strong argument for a super-sized sales pie.
Now, if we only knew which automakers will hog up the really big slices.
You may e-mail Edward Lapham at