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January 8, 2010
U.S. auto industry struggles to regain its global stature

Cars on a Shanghai highway. Photo: Flickr user Desoumal

Toyota, the world’s biggest automaker, says its top-selling car in Japan last year was the Prius — the first time that a hybird vehicle gained that distinction.

More than 200,000 Prius cars were sold in Japan, three times the number from 2008. Hybrids account for 10 percent of automobile sales in Japan, compared to 3 percent in the U.S.

And in 2009, China surpassed the U.S. as the world’s largest car market. American auto sales dipped 21 percent to about 10.5 million.

Will the United States ever regain its stature as an auto industry powerhouse?

Tell us what you think in the comments section below. Please be respectful and on-point. Malicious or offensive comments will be deleted, and repeat offenders will be banned.

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Yes. If the American Auto Industry remembers doing something that other american companies do well overseas : Sell. With foreign economies booming (asian people eager to spend) they HAVE to go out there and RECAPTURE those consumers. But, with what? With a GOOD quality product. FIRE those overpaid executives and throw that money into some REAL ENGINEERING departments. Recruit THINKERS, designers, R&D geniuses that can conceive the best vehicle at the best price. See what’s happening overseas with the new Ford Fusion and the new Ford Edge. Amazing lines, fun to drive, they’re hot sellers down here in Colombia. PRICING IS THE KEY.
Make a product that CAN be a real alternative. Even in wealthy economies, top of the line Toyotas and its Europeans counterparts ARE awfully expensive, but people is forgiving, given their QUALITY.
Don’t be lazy, get out of the suit and go back to the design room. And to the american worker : give 150% Asian workers don’t mind in doing so EVERY DAY. Be bold, determined and fire that SOCIALIST from the White House. Best of luck…


When the U.S. was coming out of the Depression (1940’s) cars were the big seller because they were cheap…$1999-VW Bug, and most cars were $4000-$8000. Apparently, the Auto Companies don’t want you to remember that. Cars were listed by price, NOT by financing rates ($200/mon, $300/mon). So all Americans wanted to buy a new car. (I remember yrs ago that one day I would buy that “78 corvette as soon as I could save up $8000.!!! Now in 2010, I couldn’t even afford the engine! ! ! !
So what this comes down to, is that the Economy has just come out of a Recession, and if a company wants to survive financially, it is going to have to lower prices!!! And that’s the last thing that the American car business has done!!!
All they want to do is add the latest gadget (gps, cellphone ringer, tv, video game, etc, etc, to their cars) Soon there will be toilets added to the seats!!! That won’t sell more cars!!!


I think that cars made in the USA will be looked at as the best in the world, but they will be Hyundais’ Toyotas and Hondas. The American companies are behind so far that they have borrowed from their European and Asian counterparts. Best Chevy has an Isuzu engine, best Ford is built on a Volvo designed frame. The only thing American business does is manipulate capital to make a next quarter profit, they no longer look at the long term picture.


Absolutely yes! Strange things happen. The Berlin Wall fell; Internet/computers & cell phones are world wide in 10 years. The US could gain auto leadership again; how? just get out of the way, recycle auto products etc within the US, give the imaginative engineers free reign.


There was a time when US car makers virtually had the market to themselves; however those days are over for good. They always skip the obvious when it comes to competing in the car market–terrible reliability, they don’t want to build and market small cars, and they are terribly mismanaged – Too late with technologies that other car manufacturers tend to grab onto and take advantage of (e.g. hybrid cars) When the Volt is released, Toyota and others will have something better soon or just in time.


I do not believe so. The vast bulk of Americans don’t get it when it comes to smaller cars, efficiency (fuel economy) and the benefits of plug-in hybrids. The companies just go for the biggest profits and still push large, fuel burning SUVs. Few consider their carbon foot print.


Hello,In 1969 I bought my first new Chev. Camero one of the main reasons I went with that car was because of the advertisments.Back then the industry used women models in swim suits to help sell the product,partly the reason I bought. The car didn’t last.Toyota was starting to move in America, minus the women models. Now I see macho men featured in, made in, American car advertisements.The American Auto Industry because they have not learned from the quote “you can fool etc.,will not become the powerhouse again anytime soon.


Ron NY Says:

U.S. Auto Industry cannot regain global
leadership if the labor and trade laws continue
out of balance.

You what Ron, the US auto industry did not have a globalmarket, their cars were not only expensive but also unatractive, highly polluting and wastefull. They were mostly bought by the rich in the oil producing countries but all other countries had by the mid-eighties replaced them with what is called in america asian imports.


General Motor’s has long been a bloated, overfed, and stuffed pig that should be brought to the slaughter house,period! It’s surviving piglet’s (guess I’ll use animal farm as a metaphor)should be culled,…bringing about the most pragmatic,healthy,and profitable offspring to be brought to market. That means cutting all the fat,and getting lean ,and financially marketable for satifying the once complacent american consumers appetite. Why? Because american’s are realistic, patriotic,and not stupid,…certainly knowing the benefits of buying “American Made Products” in todays economy. Ford Motors is a no-brainer,…the best of the best “Worldwide”,and for years has suffered from it’s sibling rivalry/competitor’s arrogance,and greed to bring about practicality,…”the unique american entrepreneur branding of foresight”,rather than GM’s,and Chrysler’s myopic stigma that has collapsed the entire industry down upon(bringing Ford Motor’s with it,sadly) itself. Lastly,… Chrysler is a has been,and with no innovation,foresight,or worst yet,… imagination! Off,…to the slaughter house with this worthless pig,and it’s offspring,…to the rendering farm of recycling via reincarnation for the good of Ford,and (hopefully) the,”Lean and Mean” newly futuristic product line of GM! Note: No more litanies of a dozen obscene models to choose from! PS. Buy American;)


It is possible, but there are hold backs. One, in a global economy the American worker cannot compete with wages in Southeast Asia or South America. Two, greed by America and world holders of stock in the auto industry for profits at any expense will deter a return to America’s pre 2007 levels. Three, the American auto worker must get with the right attitude that is – being a former Automobile Plant Supervisor I have witnessed first hand some very bad attitudes by the auto workers. Forth, Automobile industry and Union negotiations have to be trimmed down particularly on such things as 2 years of pay for sitting home, on cradle to the grave benefits that current retirees are now enjoying – particularly the health benefits for workers retired. The automobile industry has to be more competitive in terms of quality and style. And as #1 Ron NY says – and I agree the labor laws and the trade laws have to change to enable the American automobile industry to compete “fairly” – Jim @ USA


The auto industry in north america is now on a back footing and will really need to be very creative to catch up with the competetion. They had the monopoly here and kept making these ugly noisy cars with no thought to the economy little realising that the boom days were comming to an end. Also they were so complacent that they never paid any attention to the market, they did not realise that their rival imports were making cars that were more stylish and economical that would appeal to the consumer.These cars have made a hugh impact on the market that now it has become very difficult for them to compete making their comeback very very slow.


Labor costs have to plummet in the US to parallel India and China,or we will have floods of Chinese cars and trucks badged as Chevys or Fords over here.New battery technology is their only hope!


If American automakers came out with fully electric cars, inexpensive, and capable of replacing gas burning autos in significant numbers, then it may be possible for the US to regain some of the market. Hybrids are not enough. Hydrogen is too costly and inefficient for fuel distribution. Tying electric power for cars to renewable forms of electricity, that actually make go a long way to addressing the very real problem. There are currently 600,000,000 automobiles in the world. That’s expected to rise to 800 million cars soon.


The US could recapture the auto industry if it would produce energy effiecient affordable vehicles. I drive a Chevy, Geo, Metro. It’s Toyota under the hood. I would love to buy a new car really a small three cylinder truck but no one is currently manufacturing a car worth buying at an affordable price. Green is great still, I cannot afford a thirty thousand dollar Prius. If Detroit would manufacture a ten thousand dollar, stock,energy effiecient and environmental friendly not loaded with extra’s car/truck they would sell.


George Sorros stated that the baby boomers that used to buy everything under the sun are retireing at a large numbers. They who used to buy the lastest cars are keeping those cars longer even until they rust out. Why should a person on Social Security buy a new car to keep an 25 year old worker in his job? Even buy a new house orthe Summer of 2008. It is not coming back. Those children after the baby boomers spend their money on drugs and are written off. I drive a 1994 Ford Escort LX that have only 120,000 miles on it. Many of these models can go 300,000 miles, 400,000 miles plus before they give out.


This doesnt mean anything. USA still has the largest inventory of cars and trucks since Ford made the first car. USA still the greatest emitter of carbon footprint for the last 100 yrs.


No. Americans refuse to abandon their worship of consumption. Without tremendous sacrifice and a complete rethinking of our economic values and priorities we will continue to be exposed to the whims of the global economy.


Not a chance. The US can’t do anything right. A sound government/corporation policy would have us doing full electric cars now. The ” ‘market’ always chooses the best course attitude” the US believes in religiously keeps us behind the times.


No. With the Obama crew and the way the congress are doing with the country and spend, spend with no regard to anything the country will go downhill more and more, just like it has done since they took over, and this is only in the first year. Bill K


No. I remember that after the second world war the oil companys and tire mfg. co. conspired with the blessing of the Eisenhower administration to replace the rapid transit local rail systems with free ways for automobils. What goes around comes around. And, the fact that the auto mfg. and the unions ripped off the american people by producing junk.


Presently, the US auto industry manufacturing model is unable to compete with China on scale. However, the competitive dynamics could change with a major innovation/ game changer of the internal combustion engine/displacement of manufacturing/marketing facilities into third world countries(Vietnam etc)and changing the mindset/compensation scale of country club management.


Global is the answer. Sales in China and India are the growth spots in a flat or shrinking domestic industry. Ford is ahead in global operation, Chysler is now a Fiat partner with a hugh past investment by Daimler Benz. GM has the Buick as a top model in China. The answer is yes, but offshore. VW Group is a coming power house with VW /Audi as one of the most respected and desired brands. Time will tell so think positive with our technology and global partners the industy is in the “era of transition”
Penske Auto Group, Manheim Auto Actions to name a few are postioned and ready for the future are we?


The US/North American industry will never again lead the world. Their best days are long behind them. In our typical North American fashion we ignore the truth until long after it has bitten us. The auto industry in the US is just another indication of the general decline of the United States in general. China and India have such a huge demand on the horizon as more people become middle class, while here in North America the middle class is very quickly dwindling.


The U.S. Auto Industry will not regain global leadership by designing and producing vehicles aimed at the over-consumptive U.S. family. Only if there is a diametric shift in the types of vehicles the US produces relative to Japan and Europe will the US Auto Industry regain market share.




GM is about to become profitable and pay back its loans to the Gov and the pro foreign car guys at Consumer Reports say the Ford Fusion is more reliable than the Honda Acord. Just to name a few positive signs, I am hopeful the big 3 will regain their leadership role in the next ten years.


To achive par will take maybe 30 years, to take a leading role, they must first restore the confidance consumers once had in their products. They must not wait for someone else to beat them at their own game, instead inovate and bring the cost of production down, in order to bring back buyers to their show rooms.


U.S. Auto Industry cannot regain global
leadership if the labor and trade laws continue
out of balance.

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