By Jim Henry Automotive News
Detroit, Michigan -- The US auto industry -- buoyed by a steady rise in new-vehicle sales and healthier balance sheets -- is hiring again, and top automotive executives expect to keep adding workers through next year.
A survey of 100 senior automotive executives released today indicates 72 percent expect their companies to hire more US employees in 2013 -- up from 62 percent who said the same thing last year.
And despite worries about declining demand in Europe caused by the debt crisis and pressures on vehicle pricing, auto executives surveyed by advisory firm KPMG are bullish about their companies' prospects.
"The survey results clearly demonstrate a U.S. automotive industry that is regaining confidence," Gary Silberg, KPMG's national auto industry leader, said in a statement.
"Even though the overall economic recovery remains weak, that is not the case in automotive, where pent-up demand for vehicles in the U.S. is expected to carry over for years," he added. "As a result, auto companies and suppliers are ramping up their hiring and production activities, and investing heavily in new products and facility expansion."
Respondents were US-based executives for domestic and foreign-based automakers, plus parts suppliers.
"Essentially, the industry has a lot of new and upgraded factories. The U.S. has highly efficient, low-cost labour," Silberg said in an interview with Automotive News. "They have done some clearly remarkable things."
Among respondents who said they expect to add jobs, 23 percent said they will increase head count by more than 7 percent, 21 percent said they would go up 4 to 6 percent, and 28 percent said they would go up 1 to 3 percent, KPMG said.
The hiring outlook should not underestimate the "gut-wrenching" restructuring the US auto industry went through to get where it is today, Silberg said in an interview.
That included the 2009 restructurings of GM and Chrysler Group in bankruptcy, and Ford Motor Co.'s turnaround efforts.
Many North American suppliers were also forced to restructure and downsize during the recession.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, US motor vehicle and parts manufacturing employment stood at 779,300 in June.
That's an increase of about 9 percent from a year ago, and up 24 percent, or nearly 150,000workers from June 2009.
However, the June 2012 employment figure is down by 284,000 workers, or 27 percent, from June 2004.
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