DETROIT -- The 2009 rescue of General Motors and Chrysler was just the first round of a rapid, sweeping restructuring of the auto industry, said a key architect of the government rescue.
“In the next 12 years, the auto industry will undergo more change than it has in the past 50 years,” said Ron Bloom, senior counselor to the president for manufacturing policy.
Speaking at the Automotive News World Congress, Bloom predicted a rapid shift in how vehicles are sold and built.
“In a dozen years, e-commerce will come to the auto industry,” he said, starting with fully online car purchases doubling to 12 percent by 2014. “The shift has only just begun.”
Production will change from the current process, “still based on Henry Ford's assembly line” to on-demand assembly of cars customized for buyers, he predicted.
General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group -- and by extension, Ford Motor Co. because of the suppliers shared by all three -- are positioned to share in the industry's evolution because of the rescue, Bloom said.
Saving GM and Chrysler “avoided a devastating blow” and was better than either letting them fail or taking over active control, he said.
Without aid, “the entire American manufacturing industry would have been put at risk” in early 2009.
“In general, we got it right,” Bloom said.
He cited the Detroit 3's results in 2010 as proof of the turnaround. All three were profitable for the first time in six years and had a collective market share increase for the first time in 15 years.
“Chrysler is not out of the woods but making progress,” Bloom said. “So far, so good.”
Bloom said the government will let Chrysler decide the timing of its initial public offering and would let Fiat Automobile increase its 25 percent stake in Chrysler Group to a controlling 51 percent, as long as Fiat first repays Chrysler's federal loans.
“If that's what they want, that's terrific, because we'd like to get our money back,” Bloom said. “If there are other changes that need to be made, we are ready to sit down and talk to them.”