WASHINGTON -- A major U.S. automotive consulting firm on Wednesday provided some rare optimism about the state of the industry.
First, CSM Worldwide predicts, federal aid soon will likely begin to flow to key suppliers. Government officials now understand the interconnectedness of the auto industry and how the failure of some critical parts makers could ripple across the industry, including import-brand assembly plants, CSM says.
More broadly, CSM CEO Craig Cather told reporters here, automakers that are left standing when the crisis passes will have opportunities for growth and profitability.
We do expect the industry is going to come back, Cather said. This industry is getting leaner.
Even General Motors, which has received $13.4 billion in federal loans and seeks more, stands to be highly competitive if it pulls off the restructuring it has outlined for the government, Cather predicted.
He was less upbeat about Chrysler LLC, saying it is pretty easy to poke holes in the companys restructuring plan. For example, he said, the plans assumption that Chrysler will maintain a 10 percent U.S. market share is unrealistic.
CSM, of suburban Detroit, believes U.S. sales will return to a degree of normalcy by 2012. Already, Cather said, there are signs that credit is loosening for vehicle buyers. But he conceded that demand and consumer confidence remain low and unemployment likely will rise.
Cather was accompanied by Eric Fedewa, CSMs vice president of global powertrain forecasts. Fedewa is scheduled to testify tomorrow at an EPA hearing on whether states should be allowed to enforce greenhouse gas rules on cars and trucks.
CSM offered its views on the state of the industry to reporters in part out of self-interest, Cather said. The company provides services to many automakers and hundreds of suppliers.
But Cather told Automotive News his company wants more recognition for its analysis of industry information related to public policy issues, particularly during a shakeout.