A battered Detroit puts on bright smile for auto show

A badly battered Detroit was doing its best to put on a bright smile for the nation's premier auto show which opens Monday in the wake of one of the worst years in Motown's history.

Hometown giants General Motors and Chrysler were forced to seek billions in government loans and finally bankruptcy protection in the wake of a collapse in auto sales amid a broad economic crisis.

And while Ford managed to both stay afloat and increase its share of the shrunken market, the Detroit Three were dethroned by Asian automakers in 2009 as the biggest sellers in the US market.

"It was a year that nobody wants to repeat," said Rebecca Lindland, an analyst at IHS Global Insight.

"The one silver lining is that only two of our major car companies had to declare bankruptcy because, seriously, just looking at how the sales fell, it's a miracle that more didn't have to."

Auto sales were down dramatically worldwide and in the United States they fell 21.2 percent to 10.43 million vehicles in 2009, according to Autodata figures released last week.

That is the lowest level since the 1983 recession and drastically below the 15 to 17 million vehicle range posted in each of the previous 15 years.

The collapse came as Detroit was smarting from years of mass layoffs and plant closures as GM, Ford and Chrysler restructured their operations in the wake of a decades-long loss of market share to Asian rivals that accelerated dramatically when high gasoline prices undermined truck and sport utility vehicle sales.

The Detroit Three - which held a 60-percent share of the US market as recently as 2004 and a 70 percent stake a decade ago - ended 2009 with a 44.2 percent stake.

Asian automakers captured a 47.4-percent share in 2009, up from 44.6 percent in 2008, Autodata said.

Part of the loss comes from the fact that the Detroit Three are offering customers fewer options and focusing on "core" products.

GM is in the midst of shedding half its brands, Ford will have done the same after it completes the sale of Volvo, and Chrysler has dramatically cut back its offerings under the management of Italy's Fiat.

All three automakers insist that the painful cuts have positioned them for long-term profitability and a congressional delegation will be visiting the show to see how those plans have translated into products.

"For the domestic brands, the objective is to really showcase that they are here to stay," said Jeff Schuster, director of forecasting at JD Power.

There is no doubt that 2010 will be a challenging year.

While most forecasters are forecasting a moderate rise in US auto sales, they are expected to remain at significantly depressed levels and could be badly hit should the economy take another bad turn.

"For 2010, I'm leaving my seatbelt on, because I think that volatility is still an element of the new norm," Ken Czubay, Ford vice president for US marketing sales and service said in a conference call discussing Ford's December sales results last week.

Yet the fact that the Detroit Three managed to survive the recent turmoil to mount displays highlighting their new focus on stylish and fuel-efficient vehicles has granted new hope to the Motor City.

"The mood is incredibly, diametrically, 180 degrees different than what it was a year ago," said Doug Fox, chair of the North American International Auto Show.

"There's some stability in the market. That has really heartened a lot of people that maybe we have hit the bottom."

mso/mk

 

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years - but he says it wasn’t all fun and games...
News
i100
Sport
Aguero - who single-handedly has kept City's Champions League dreams alive - celebrates his dramatic late winner
footballManchester City 3 Bayern Munich 2: Argentine's late hat-rick sees home side snatch vital victory
News
Muhammad Ali pictured in better health in 2006
peopleBut he has enjoyed publicity from his alleged near-death experience
Arts and Entertainment
Tony breaks into Ian Garrett's yacht and makes a shocking discovery
TVReview: Revelations continue to make this drama a tough watch
News
news
News
peopleSinger tells The Independent what life is like in rehab in an exclusive video interview
News
The assumption that women are not as competent in leadership positions as men are leads to increased stress in the workplace
science... and it's down to gender stereotypes
Arts and Entertainment
Inner sanctum: Tove Jansson and friends in her studio in 1992
booksWhat was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Singer songwriter Bob Dylan performs on stage
films
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Lawyer - Cheshire

    Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CHESHIRE MARKET TOWN - An exciting and rare o...

    Austen Lloyd: Residential Property Solicitor - Hampshire

    Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE - SENIOR POSITION - An exciti...

    Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Engineer

    £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...

    Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor

    £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor is req...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
    Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

    24-Hour party person

    Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
    Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

    A taste for rebellion

    US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
    Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

    Colouring books for adults

    How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
    Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
    Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

    Call me Ed Mozart

    Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
    10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
    Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

    Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

    Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
    'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

    'I am a paedophile'

    Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
    Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

    From a lost deposit to victory

    Green Party on the march in Bristol
    Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

    Winter blunderlands

    Putting the grot into grotto
    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

    London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital