Ford Motor Co. will overtake General Motors to become North America's top auto producer this year as bankruptcy scrambles the industry rankings, a research firm says.
Chrysler LLC, which has stopped production during its bankruptcy filing, will fall to No. 5, behind Honda and Toyota, according to data from forecasting group IHS Global Insight.
Ford will rank first with North American production of 1.9 million units, a 17.7 percent decrease from 2008, IHS said. GM, which is shutting most of its plants as it braces for a possible June 1 bankruptcy, will build 1.7 million vehicles, about half as many as it did last year.
Chrysler's projected 903,191-unit output will be a decrease of more than half. Honda Motor Co. will replace Chrysler in the No. 3 slot by producing 1.1 million vehicles, and Toyota Motor Corp. will finish fourth with 904,262 units built, IHS said.
The projections reflect the cuts IHS made last week to its industrywide outlook. The new forecast, 8.4 million units, is a reduction of another 156,000 units from last month's estimate. The forecasting firm is expecting a 32.9 percent decrease from 2008 production of 12.6 million units. Low production reflects poor U.S. sales, which have fallen 37.4 percent through April.
The "stigma" surrounding Chrysler LLC's bankruptcy and General Motors' likely Chapter 11 filing will hurt the companies' sales, IHS said in a statement accompanying the release of its new annual production forecast. Ford is poised to pick up the bulk of the disillusioned customers and will gain 220,000 units of Chrysler's production, IHS said.
Monthly unit production at Ford and Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. will surpass last year's numbers as soon as August, IHS analysts Haig Stoddard and Tracy Handler said. But that will not mean stable U.S. production, they said.
"Other manufacturers can make up some of the extra demand from inventory," they said last week. "We've increased production for most other manufacturers, just not enough to make up for declines at GM and Chrysler."
GM spokesman Tom Wilkinson declined to comment.
Chrysler LLC closed its plants early this month after declaring Chapter 11 bankruptcy April 30. It plans to sell its viable assets into a new company owned by Italian automaker Fiat S.p.A. and then reopen the plants. In late April, General Motors said it would close 13 of its plants for up to nine weeks starting last week, which IHS had taken into account in its production forecast released last month.
Automotive News production data for 2008 differs slightly from the IHS Global Insight production data, but the two data sets rank the top five automakers identically. The automakers' production totals don't include vehicles assembled at joint-venture plants.
Through May 16, Ford had built 559,216 vehicles in North America this year and GM had built 598,296, according to Automotive News estimates.