DETROIT -- Asian automakers will increase their share of North American vehicle output as production slowly recovers from the recession, a top automotive forecaster says.
Michael Robinet, vice president for global vehicle forecasts at CSM Worldwide in suburban Detroit, says it will take three to four years for North American production to recover to pre-recession levels. Robinets comments came at a meeting of the Detroit Regional Economic Partnership.
When production revives, Detroit automakers will only make about 45 percent of the total, Robinet says. In 2000, the Detroit 3 produced 77 percent of vehicles built in North America.
The Asian Four -- Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Hyundai -- will gain most of the share of production lost by Detroit makers, he said.
Robinet said the industry will move away from large cars, full-sized pickups and SUVs. Because of strict federal fuel-economy rules, he said, Were going to start driving more appropriately sized vehicles.
The strongest product segments will be in the so-called B, C and D segments. Those are subcompact (Honda Fit, VW Rabbit), compact (Ford Focus, Honda Civic) and mid-sized (Toyota Camry, Chevrolet Malibu) vehicles.
Global vehicle production has dropped sharply, he added. In January 2008, automakers built vehicles at an annual rate of 74 million units. Last January, the rate fell to 43 million units.
In 12 months, we dropped over 30 million units of our production base, Robinet said.
That has sent the industrys capacity utilization rate to about 60 percent. Thats significantly below the 80 to 85 percent Robinet said is needed to operate profitably.