Everyone in this business will be in a fishbowl in 2009, and the world will be watching. We had better get used to it.
All the challenges of the past year are still with us. New issues this year will make the auto business even tougher.
Dealers must become global financial wizards to compete and survive. They will have to learn to act like used-car dealers and live with a vastly smaller new-car volume. Amid fierce competition, treating the customer well — earning his or her loyalty — has never been more important.
Dealers must reduce inventories, both vehicles and parts. If the factory will ship overnight, there will be no penalty for smaller parts inventories.
Suppliers must continue to scramble to develop new relationships around the world. With everyone fighting for survival, no supplier can expect a lot of help from any car company.
Automakers will continue to struggle. General Motors and Chrysler LLC have effectively become government-controlled; the more money they require from the government, the more control they will lose.
Their destiny is in the hands of the car czar and other politicians and bureaucrats. Consumers get no vote. Austerity is the new mantra.
Whether GMAC Financial Services and Chrysler Financial will ever get back into the auto-lending business is unknown.
Cerberus is fighting for its life and trying to shed any vestige of the auto industry. The company's hedge fund has been affected dramatically.
Even the UAW is criticized for an excessive lifestyle. The UAW's northern Michigan retreat is history, as are perks that other unions don't have.
The global manufacturers are no more comfortable. The challenges are everywhere.
It's going to be a tough year. Batten down the hatches.