The auto industry will sell an estimated 11.5 million new cars and trucks in 2009, the lowest sales total since 1982, according to Michael Robinet, vice president of forecast services with consulting firm CSM Worldwide.
U.S. auto sales already are reeling. Through November, sales plunged to 12.35 million vehicles, down 16.3 percent from the same 11-month period of 2007, according to the Automotive News data center.
Sales in 2007 totaled 16.15 million vehicles -- the ninth straight year in which sales topped 16 million.
The low sales projections for 2009 cast more gloom as debate continues in Congress about auto bailout loans. The House tonight is expected to vote on a $14 billion loan bailout plan for General Motors and Chrysler LLC, and passage in the Senate is far from guaranteed.
Robinet said Chryslers survival as a full-scale auto company in 2009 is doubtful. That, combined with consumers turning way from GM brands that the company has indicated it wants to shed -- such as Saturn -- could lower the Detroit 3 market share to 43 percent to 44 percent next year. The Detroit 3's market share was 47.4 percent through the first 11 months of this year, according to the Automotive News data center.
Youre looking at Detroit market share south of 45 percent next year in the U.S., says Robinet. He made his projections during a presentation to the Automotive Press Association today.
Robinet also predicts that Chrysler will be sold off in pieces in 2009 and 2010, with some vehicles such as the Jeep Grand Cherokee, minivans and pickups being attractive to some buyers.
He says a federal car czar, if appointed as part of the bailout for the Detroit 3, should oversee a controlled wind-down of Chrysler, should it be sold.
To have it all stop tomorrow isnt what the industry wants or needs, Robinet says. They need some lead time to work this through the system.
More pain will be inflicted on auto suppliers in the process, says Jim Gillette, director of financial services at CSM.
He says the possible demise of Chrysler, years of debt buildup and excess capacity could push up to 25 percent of auto suppliers into bankruptcy or consolidation over the next two years, putting 100,000 employees out of work.
Gillette adds: We are going to lose jobs; we are going to lose suppliers. The supplier base will shrink.