CHICAGO General Motors
Co. and Ford Motor Co. are projecting higher vehicle sales in
Speaking during monthly sales
calls, executives at both automakers sounded bullish on
consumer demand, citing steady employment, low interest rates
and a growing driving-age population, as well as the aging of
vehicles currently on the road and a slate of new product
Detroit-based GM expects U.S.
passenger car and light truck sales to total between 15 million
and 15.5 million vehicles, a development "that (would) make
2013 the industrys best year since before the great
recession," vice president of sales operations Kurt McNeil
Light-vehicle sales topped 14.4
million units last year, according to industry estimates.
In 2013, GM will introduce a
2.0-liter clean-diesel Chevrolet Cruze, a Chevrolet Impala and
a Cadillac ELR plug-in; expand the availability of turbocharged
four-cylinder engines on vehicles such as the Buick Encore; and
launch new V6 and V8 Gen 5 engines for pickup trucks.
GM ended 2012 with an inventory
of 221,649 full-size pickup trucks. "We are where we want to be
for the changeover (to new trucks). Were bringing our Gen
5 engines and our stamping facilities online right now, (so)
the changeover is going extremely well," General Motors North
America president Mark Reuss said.
"Getting away from the
boom-and-bust cycle (in the economy and the auto industry) is
really important," GM chief economist Mustafa Mohatarem said.
"Steady growth is what were hoping for, and thats
what is likely to happen."
"Access to money is sound, as
are the underlying fundamentals of the economy, like steadily
increasing employment," Reuss said.
Meanwhile, Dearborn, Mich.-based
Ford estimates that 2013 sales could reach 16 million vehicles.
Chief economist Ellen Hughes-Cromwick said that U.S. sales
since 2009 "have rebounded by over 4 million units for a total
growth over that three-year period of 40 percent," far
outperforming the economy in general, which has been growing at
some 2 percent. Ford expects the gross domestic product to grow
2 to 2.5 percent in 2013.
Although an increase in tax
rates on the wealthiest Americans is significant to the
industry, only 2 percent of new vehicle buyers are in that
upper income-tax bracket, Hughes-Cromwick said. But the change
in payroll taxes, which reverted to the prior rate of 6.2
percent from 4.2 percent, represents a loss of $1,000 for the
average household. "Were looking at it very carefully as
it will cramp (consumer) spending in the months ahead," she
However, that may not lead
people to defer vehicle purchases but rather choose models more
appropriately priced for their income. Plus, auto loans are
generally available to most consumers, Hughes-Cromwick said.
"We really dont see automotive credit constraints, in
contrast to maybe what were still seeing in the housing