From Automotive News
Detroit, Michigan -- The US auto sales downturn may be near a bottom, but the uncertainty of the market given credit conditions and fuel prices make it hard to predict what sales will be like in 2009, a top supplier executive said today.
"It's hard to believe that we can get a lot lower than we are today," Tim Leuliette told the Reuters Autos Summit in Detroit. "Then again, it was hard to believe that AIG could go bankrupt. It was hard to believe Lehman could go bankrupt."
Leuliette, the former ceo of Metaldyne Corp., took the helm of Dura Automotive Systems Inc. just after it emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in July.
Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. filed for bankruptcy protection on Monday, and a federal takeover has been engineered for insurance giant American International Group, adding to uncertainty about credit markets.
US auto sales have declined from more than 17 million vehicles three years ago to a projected 14 million rate in 2008 under tight credit markets and rising fuel prices.
Production cuts by automakers in the second half of 2008 will also result in follow-through pressure on suppliers in the first half of 2009, Leuliette said.
Leuliette also said he expected tremendous pent-up demand for vehicles to result in some very strong US auto sales within three to five years, based on his experience with past business cycles.