By 2013, car and truck sales in North America will rebound to the "new normal" rate of 15 million to 16 million units, according to John Hoffecker, a managing director at business advisory firm AlixPartners.
North America will rebound from its current sales drought but will not return to the nearly 17 million vehicles seen earlier this decade, he said at the Management Briefing Seminars.
That period was an anomaly, with millions of units pulled ahead by automaker incentives and overspending by consumers flush from an inflated housing market.
"We should have had a big drop in 2002 to 2004, but we really pulled ahead a significant amount of demand, which is exacerbating the problem of where we are today, and it's why you're seeing that huge decline," Hoffecker said.
"In the last two years, the industry has in turn given back about 7 million units, leaving 10 million units yet to be forgone before the industry even gets back to zero," he said.
The projections were among the results in AlixPartners' annual auto industry study, surveying 275 suppliers, 45 automakers and thousands of consumers.