As a group, automakers won't come close to the North American light-vehicle production record set in 2000. But eight automakers are poised to set their own North American output records this year.
Toyota Motor Corp., BMW AG, Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group, Volkswagen AG, Honda Motor Co., Nissan Motor Co., Daimler AG and Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. (Subaru) are expected to set North American production records, according to LMC Automotive. (See table for forecasts.)
If LMC's projections are accurate, they offer added evidence that foreign automakers are determined to take advantage of North America's growth and avoid costly currency fluctuations.
They also suggest that the North American market is starting to look more like Europe's, with eight or 10 rivals fighting for share.
LMC Senior Analyst Joe Langley notes that this year's likely industry production of 14.9 million units, up 14 percent from 2011, won't come close to the North American record of 17.2 million light vehicles set in 2000.
But the capacity utilization rate continues to rise -- a sign of the industry's profitability. Langley expects North American assembly plants to operate at 85 percent of straight-time capacity this year, up from nearly 75 percent in 2011.
"Overall, the auto industry seems to be an unusual bright spot for the economy," Langley said. "It's still healthy."