The big-headline news is that vehicle sales and production are up. But here are other indications that the U.S. auto industry is pulling out of its recession.
GM's IPO and 9 other signs of life
General Motors Co. went public in November at $33 per common share, a far higher price than analysts had predicted even in the days leading up to the offering.
The share of new-vehicle loans to borrowers with tarnished credit -- ranging from those with fair credit to the riskiest -- grew 12.7 percent year over year in the third quarter, according to the research firm Experian Automotive.
Both 30- and 60-day delinquency rates declined in the third quarter year over year, according to Experian. The 30-day overdue rate was 2.99 percent, down from 3.27 percent, and the 60-day delinquency rate was 0.77 percent, down from 0.93 percent.
Dealers who cut down on giving to charities during the recession have begun donating again. A recent Automotive News survey found that 70 percent of the respondents scaled back philanthropy after the industry crashed in 2008. But half of those dealers have restored some or all of their giving.
In December, the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers, the lobby group for Toyota, Honda and 13 other foreign-brand automakers, moved from a 5,500-square-foot office in suburban Virginia to a 7,500-square-foot office in pricier Washington.
GM announced it would hire 1,000 engineers over the next two years to focus on electric-vehicle technology. Meanwhile, Chrysler Group has said it plans to hire 1,000 engineers and other skilled workers by the end of the first quarter of 2011 to help develop small and mid-sized cars. Several suppliers announced hiring plans, too.
Within a 200-mile radius of Nashville, automakers are investing $5.1 billion in factory projects to launch new product initiatives -- Ford in Louisville, Ky.; GM in Spring Hill, Tenn.; Nissan in Smyrna, Tenn.; Toyota in Tupelo, Miss.; and Volkswagen in Chattanooga, Tenn..
Two years ago, most Ford stores commanded little or no blue sky -- the intangible value of a dealership. But with Ford's six consecutive quarters of profits, several updated products and generally positive news, blue sky has jumped for Ford dealerships.
Eight automakers are planning to run commercials during the 2011 Super Bowl, broadcast, not including pre- or post-game coverage. That's up from six in 2010 and three in 2009.
A recent Morgan Stanley survey of 100 dealers found that 83 percent expect U.S. light-vehicle sales to increase 5 percent in 2011, while 51 percent are counting on an increase of 10 percent or more.
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