More positive vibes from the light vehicle front

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The automotive analysts at consulting firm PricewaterCoopers (PwC) are but the most recent group of industry experts to jump upon the light vehicle bandwagon – and they are forecasting some positive trends in terms of both global demand and production for the next few years.

Now, while PwC’s Autofactsshop does not foresee a bed of roses for the global light vehicle market – the European Union, for example, is a market that’s still expected to experience a downturn in demand this year – on the whole, things are shaping up pretty nicely.

[Car commercials are getting more fun to watch as well; perhaps an unexpected benefit of the more positive light being shined on the market. Here’s a recent favorite of mine concerning the new Dodge Dart sedan.]

Overall, Autofacts expects global light vehicle assembly operations in 2013 to produce in excess of 83 million units, an increase of 5.1% from the total in 2012 – again, with expectations that the global market for light vehicles to remain in positive overall, even though the European Union and Japan will continue to be areas of concern.

Here’s a region-by-region breakdown:

  • European Union: The European outlook remains a significant concern for the automotive industry, both in terms of its regional importance as well as the threat of a global contagion scenario. The region as a whole is expected to see a further, albeit slower, decline in 2013, with most European markets likely seeing a depressed first half of 2013 with some territories realizing a slight recovery as economic conditions begin to improve toward the end of the year. With this in mind, Autofacts is forecasting EU assembly of 15.6 million units in 2013, a decline of 200,000 units compared to 2012.
  • North America: While 2012 was a boom year for the region, sales and assembly growth are expected to taper in 2013. Pent-up demand continues to exist in the market with the average fleet age in the U.S. at approximately 11 years. U.S. sales are expected to reach 15.3 million units in 2013, up from 14.4 million units in 2012. In terms of assembly for the region, Autofacts is forecasting 15.8 million units for 2013, up from 15.4 million units in 2012.
  • BRIC Recovery: After a relatively slow growth year in 2012, the so-called “BRIC” markets [Brazil-Russia-India-China] are expected to start heating up again in 2013. As expected, China will lead the way with 2013 assembly forecasted to reach 18.9 million units, up from 16.4 million in 2012.

"Automotive companies remain cautious about economic conditions in Europe," said Rick Hanna, global automotive leader, PwC. "However, overall we estimate that the global automotive industry will prosper in 2013 from emerging market growth and remaining pent-up demand in the U.S."

[One reason that pent-up demand may be let loose in 2013 on the light truck side of things is that a host of new iron featuring all sorts of improvements hits the market this year. Take General Motor’s the 2014 model Chevrolet Silverado as but one example.]

Autofacts also made note of two other big trends that will impact the light vehicle market this year:

  • Global Emission Standards: Increasingly stringent emission standards continue to drive innovation around improving vehicle efficiency. Improving existing technologies, while exploring new opportunities are playing a significant role across multiple industry sectors.
  • Cyber Security Threats: The rapid advancement of the industry has been underscored by gains in technology, including advanced manufacturing techniques, telematics, and infotainment. Technology-sharing agreements and joint ventures between OEMs will further increase innovation – and cross-border, cross-company cyber risk.

That being said, OEMs are responding to the positive indicators by expanding. Ford Motor Co. for one said it plans to hire 2,200 salaried workers in the U.S. this year – the largest increase in new salaried workers in more than a decade – on top of the more than 8,100 combined hourly and salaried jobs it added in the U.S. in 2012.

It’s also worthy of note that some 1,000 of those positions Ford added in the U.S. last year were brought back from other locations, including suppliers in Japan and Mexico.

[One reason for the ramp up is the success of new Ford designs, such as the EcoBoost engine powering its F-150 pickup and other models. You can view a very cool teardown test of the truck-version of the EcoBoost compiled by Ford last year below.]

Ford added that it’s also planning to spend some $773 million on new equipment and capacity expansions across six manufacturing facilities in southeast Michigan as it delivers on a commitment to invest $6.2 billion in U.S. plants by 2015 – investments that should create 2,350 new hourly jobs and allow the company to retain an additional 3,240 hourly jobs.

Very good stuff, I say; let’s hope it continues. 

Discuss this Blog Entry 4

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