Analysis finds GM, Chrysler’s plans weak

July 16, 2009

Analysis finds GM, Chrysler’s plans weak

Car Wars report predicts high market share losses

BY TIM HIGGINS
FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER

General Motors and Chrysler, fresh out of bankruptcy, will remain challenged in the United States by relatively weak plans to bring new cars and trucks to market, according to an annual competitive analysis released Wednesday by Banc of America Securities-Merrill Lynch.

The report — called Car Wars — predicts:

 

  • GM’s market share losses "are likely to be greater than expected" because the company is not replacing its lineup as fast as the industry and key rivals.
  • Chrysler’s weak product pipeline is also "an ominous sign" and is expected to drive "significant market share losses." The report said Chrysler could be roughly half of its current size "within the next few years."

     

     

  • Ford — with a relatively strong replacement rate and lower average showroom age — could continue to pick up market share because of a strong product replacement rate over the next four years of an estimated 25%. "This appears to be a result of planning as well as the fortuitous stress at its two main competitors," Car Wars said.

     

    GM calls report simplistic, questions accuracy

    Less than a week after the new General Motors emerged from bankruptcy, the report says GM’s business assumptions are overly optimistic and further restructuring might be required.
     

    GM strongly disagreed with the report’s findings, criticizing the study as being overly simplistic and questioning its accuracy.
     

    "We understand that analysts get paid to try to predict the future. I would take you back two years to what all of the analysts were predicting about the economy, the car market, the housing market and ask them how they did," GM spokesman Tom Wilkinson said. "They get paid to predict the future, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are going to be right."
     

    GM, which had a 22% market share ending last year, predicts its share will even out around 18%.
     

    However, the lack of new product in GM’s product pipeline over the next few years is expected to contribute to a further erosion of the Detroit automaker’s market share, the report said.
     

    "This puts the market share target of 18-19% at jeopardy, which means that further restructuring actions may be necessary," said the report, whose lead author was analyst John Murphy. "We believe a more reasonable target would be 15-16%."
     

    The discrepancy of 3% means that GM would sell 500,000 fewer vehicles — or need about two fewer assembly plants — if U.S. consumers purchase 14 million cars and trucks, the report said.
     

    The Detroit automaker’s U.S. restructuring plan already includes cutting 27,000 jobs this year, closing 13 factories and shedding 2,400 dealers by the end of next year.
     

    GM has said the company is being restructured to break even with a U.S. sales market of 10 million vehicles.
     

    Wilkinson noted that GM’s future product pipeline is not made public and questioned the accuracy of assumptions used by Car Wars to make its findings.
     

    GM has said its key challenges over the next few years include product design and quality, as well as its ability to execute its brand reduction from eight to four and strengthen its dealer network by shedding underperforming stores.
     

    Industry analyst Erich Merkle, president of Autoconomy.com, disagreed, however, with the notion that further restructuring would be needed at GM if its market share predictions are wrong.
     

    "Even if their market share is a percentage point or two lower than they are expecting, they can still make it up because the … market will get a lift next year and into 2012," Merkle said.
     

    Last summer, Car Wars said Chrysler’s lack of product indicated that its parent company was trying to sell off the Auburn Hills automaker.
     

    A few months later, GM and Chrysler began negotiations about a merger, but those talks were set aside as the sales market plummeted and the companies began running into graver troubles.
     

    Both companies ultimately sought U.S. loans and eventually were restructured through federally-backed bankruptcies. Chrysler was acquired by Fiat.
     

    In the report, the forecasted product replacement rates at GM and Chrysler over the next four years — of 11% and 8%, respectively — ranked at the bottom of the industry.
     

    A Chrysler spokesman declined to comment on the report. "However, I can tell you we have no plans to be half our size in the future," spokesman Rick Deneau said in an e-mail.
     

    Ford Motor Co., meanwhile, was a star in the Car Wars report.
     

    The automaker is forecasted to replace 99% of its lineup of cars and trucks from 2010-2013, which will lead it to gain market share, the report said. Ford’s annual replacement rate of about 25% during that period is above its historical average of 15% and better than the industry average of 18%, too.
     

    In a separate report, Murphy wrote that the annual Car Wars study "bolsters our confidence in Ford."
     

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