TOKYO Asian automakers can expect gains in market share during General Motors' reorganization, but those gains likely will be modest.
The Chapter 11 filing will scratch GM off some shopping lists. And its pared lineup will create fewer product offerings and push customers elsewhere.
But Chrysler LLC's performance under surgical bankruptcy is allaying fears that court protection means doom. Chrysler's performance in May, its first month under Chapter 11, showed some customers still are willing to buy Chry-sler's vehicles.
Chrysler's U.S. sales were off 46.9 percent in May, worse than the industrywide drop of 33.7 percent. But Toyota Motor Corp.'s sales tumbled 40.7 percent, and Honda Motor Co.'s sales slumped 41.5 percent from relatively strong year-earlier levels. In contrast, Ford Motor Co.'s sales fell 25.8 percent. At GM, with bankruptcy looming, sales slid 29.0 percent.
Japanese automakers' share of the U.S. market could climb to 45 percent, from just under 40 percent now, in the next two years, projects Masaki Taketani, vice president for Asia at CSM Worldwide.
The increases are limited by a couple of factors: Pickup buyers abandoning GM likely will turn to Ford rather than Asian brands. And resurgent buy-American sentiment also may hurt Asian brands.
"Any market share lost by GM or Chrysler will not hugely move to the Japanese," says Koji Endo, an auto analyst with Credit Suisse in Tokyo.
Toyota has the most to gain because its products have the biggest overlap with GM's, he says. But even then, Toyota can't expect a huge uptick.
GM and Chrysler have 35.0 percent of the U.S. market, and that could fall to 25 percent in the wake of Chapter 11, Endo says.
But Ford will be the big winner, picking up half the difference. The Japanese will get about two to three percentage points, and the rest will go to the Koreans and Europeans, he said.
GM's four castoff brands -- Saturn, Hummer, Saab and Pontiac -- accounted for only 3.8 percent of the U.S. market in 2008, notes Kurt Sanger of Deutsche Bank Securities.
After excluding fleet sales and customers who stick with other GM brands, there would be only about 160,000 to 170,000 units of GM sales up for grabs, Sanger estimates.
John Mendel, American Honda executive vice president, declined to comment for this report. But in a May interview, he affirmed that Honda isn't banking on a windfall sales surge.
"There is no predatory opportunity in this," Mendel said of GM's then-looming bankruptcy. "A similar slice of people who would have considered our brand will still consider us."
Mark Rechtin contributed to this report