Next week, the first of the year’s international motor shows kicks off in Detroit.
Monday, Jan. 11, is the first press day for the important North American International Auto Show. It’s the beginning of another year in the international automobile business.
As usual, thousands of automotive journalists will descend on Detroit to listen to car executives from around the world.
The reporters will offer their opinions of the new cars and trucks introduced at the show, as well as the concept cars that hint at production vehicles to come.
But this year expect the companies to be analyzed as much as the cars. After a chaotic 2009, there are still plenty of unanswered questions about the state of the global industry, not to mention questions about many of the executives who are running the businesses.
There will be a lot to digest in a few days.
Many of the unanswered questions have to do with General Motors. The survival or death of many of its brands was supposed to have occurred by the end of 2009, so we aren’t sure whether we have seen the last of Saab, Saturn, Pontiac and Hummer. We expect to see Hummer alive and well with a new Chinese owner, but the other brands seem to be gone.
The automobile business is no longer the stable industry it once was. In fact, there is a lot of instability now and will be for a while.
But there’s one thing everyone can count on this year: There will be many more changes. Executives will come and go. There will be more mergers and perhaps more bankruptcies. And we’re bound to see the death of more brands.
We’re going to see the quiet closing of factories around the world as capacity comes closer in line with reduced demand. There is still way too much production capacity in the world.
American dealers who have lost their franchises will have their day in court or in Congress and will get their satisfaction. It’s going to be another roller-coaster year -- perhaps not quite as scary as last year but exciting nonetheless.
And it starts off with an auto show in Detroit. How fitting.