-- The Society of Automotive Analysts (SAA) presented
its 24th annual Automotive Outlook Conference in the Michigan
Room at Cobo Center in Detroit. SAA President Anthony Pratt delivered
the welcome and opening remarks.
SAA is celebrating 25 years this year," he said. "We
saw the industry grow in 2011, so we have optimism. We are anticipating
growth in 2012. The composition of this organization is not all
analysts. We have members from manufacturers and suppliers. We
refer to this event as the super bowl event. In 2011, its been
a good year with 70 new members, with a total of 370 members.
We had an event
at the L.A. Auto Show so we hope to expand our events to the west
coast. We are proud of our 25th year.
Executive Editor Edward Lapham moderated the event for the evening.
Colin Langhan, U.S.
Automotive Analyst at UBS, talked about the three key parts of
his presentation. First, 2009 was the longest and worst decline
in automotive history with a very slow recovery. "Is this
a good time to buy or not?" Langhan asked.
He said there is economic
uncertainty and we should remain cautious. We have a very strong
credit environment, which is a strong positive indicator. The
U.S. scrappage trend is rising. For 2012, the production outlook
is positive. Expect further weakness in Spain, Italy and U.K.
in auto production. Second, Europe is a slight drag. And third,
2012 results are improving for the Big Three.
Brandon Mason, Senior
Auto Analyst at PwC Autofacts, forecasted 106 million in light
vehicle markets, which is 5.3 percent annual growth rate. We continue
to grow since our supportive influences outweigh the risk factors.
"Sales in U.S. continue to bump up," Mason says.
He said there were
a couple of down quarters in 2011, but the third and fourth quarters
rose up. By the end of the year, we should be on solid ground.
Inventory was a big story in 2011. Half of the inventory loss
was related to the earthquake/tsunami crisis, even though the
Japanese inventory rebounded well.
Chief Economist at General Motors LLC, said Europe is going to
be a challenge in the new year. The U.S. economy could lead the
world. China's economic growth remains strong. While recent developments
in the industry point to continued improvement, lessons learned
from 2011 remain cautious.
sales can be considered a bright spot in this recovery,"
Mohatarem explained. "The U.S. auto industry always recovers
from recessions. This time will be no different. "Americans
want to drive new cars, but as the economy improves, there will
be a similar recovery. 2011 was a very humbling year for economists.
The global economy faces lots of challenges. The U.S. is clearly
outperforming its peers. Overall, we think it will be a good year."
Paul Taylor, Chief
Economist at the National Automotive Dealers Association (NADA),
said as we look forward to 2012, inventory problems will be sorted
out by the second quarter. "We expect the Detroit three to
fight for market share as they did in 2011," Taylor said.
"Small car sales improved in 2011 and a faster pace for light
vehicle sales expected in 2012. Dealership performance improved
in a slow growth economy. Total sales improved and net profit
improved. "Cars are on the move and gasoline prices are generally
favorable for 2012."
Then, there was a question-and-answer
period with the panel of experts.
"Safety is our
guiding principle, it is what we do," said David Strickland,
Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
(NHTSA). We have expended a great amount of energy to improve
our service. Highway deaths are at the lowest level since 1949.
Since 2006, there is a 25 percent reduction in highway fatalities.
We are making headway. Anything we can do to get those numbers
lowered, it is an effort worth taking. Finding solutions, understanding
driver behavior is the lifeblood of what we do. We are on a threshold
of driver safety. We have 33,000 annual auto fatalities which
is significantly lower than previous years.
The NHTSA's current
five-star safety rating system, gives customers an opportunity
to compare vehicles. Electronic technologies continue to be a
challenge. Teens feel the need to be connected. Under Secretary
Ray LaHood's driver distraction plan, we are trying to find ways
to improve the technical zone of safety. We continue to refine
and improve data in monitoring distracted drivers and crash involvement.
Their other mission
is CAFE standards. Gas prices soared and people felt the pain
at the pump. Is our fleet going to be prepared for our energy
future? We're making conventional cars more efficient and safer.
In 2011, BMW sold more
premium vehicles worldwide than any other manufacturer, according
to Ludwig Willisch, President and CEO of BMW of North America.
He said price is not a key factor in their decision. Premium customers
want authenticity, which is a brand that stands on their own.
Customers also want sustainability without giving up performance
or comfort. Advanced technology is truly important to our premium
customers. Our sales and service satisfies the needs of the retail
customer. "I know we have many competitors, but BMW always
takes the game to a new level."
For more information
on the Society of Automotive Analysts, visit www.saaautoleaders.org.
need to add more technology to stay on the minds of millennials,