When one examines the challenges facing the auto industry in coming years, perhaps the most important finding is that companies are charting individual approaches to address them.
Automotive News' six-part "Industry on Trial" series confirms the premise of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne that the auto industry doesn't produce adequate returns on the capital it spends.
That's a daunting realization for people in one of the world's most capital-intensive industries. It's especially alarming as individual auto companies recognize that they will need even greater financial resources. All must cope with increasing regulation; new technologies; rising consumer demands for fuel economy and safety; and fresh, well-funded competitors with disruptive business models.
It's a shock to a system that for more than a century has focused on continual improvements to a single product sold to a single buyer: the privately owned automobile.
It's not clear where the global auto industry is headed over the next decade, but only companies with skill, agility and deep pockets will complete the journey.
This week's "Industry on Trial" stories of four paths to the future illuminate a key question for auto companies: how to survive and prosper in crunch time.
The need for cash will keep mergers near the top of the option list. That's true, even though most auto mergers have flopped.
Often, the failures were marked by limitations of government ownership, big overlaps that degenerated into turf wars or a leader focused on the next deal.
But there also are successful mergers. Those exceptions also often share traits: less overlap to trim, one partner close enough to death that its employees readily accept change and a strong leader with vision.
Mergers aside, most auto companies are working to position themselves for long-term success by staying flexible, fixing weaknesses and building on what they do best.
All companies are different and must choose their own path. With vision and work, they all have the tools to thrive.