The U.S. automotive market is projected to start growing again this year, fueled in part by greater demand for diesel-powered vehicles and light trucks, according to one industry observer.
Matthias Wissmann, president of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA), noted in a speech today at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit that the U.S. market expanded by 11% to almost 11.6 million vehicles last year-- and is expected to grow by another 11% to 12.8 million light vehicles in 2011.
“If we compare the years 2011 and 2009, we find that over this period the U.S. market will increase by 23%, or 2.4 million light vehicles,” he said in his remarks. “However, we should just as clearly point out the risks. The crisis in real estate has not yet been brought to an end, and at 9.4% the rate of unemployment is still relatively high. The Consumer Confidence Index is indeed showing positive development, but it is still climbing very slowly.”
Still, Wissmann added that U.S. private consumption is projected to grow by 2.5% this year after rising 1.7% in 2010 – which followed two years of contraction. “Things are moving forward,” he said.
In view of the renewed price rises at the pumps for gasoline and diesel fuel, motorists are now scrutinizing their fuel consumption more and more closely – and that’s driving a change in the types of vehicles they purchase.
“Last year the proportion of diesels among total sales of light vehicles rose slightly to 2.2%,” Wissmann said. “We assume that clean diesels will continue to enjoy considerable opportunities for growth on the U.S. market.”
Sales of light trucks were also up, but by a whopping 28%, he noted, with numerous hybrid models included among them. “The light truck market as a whole expanded by a good 18% to 5.9 million units,” Wissmann pointed out.
In light of those facts, Wissmann said it’s critical that automakers do not make the mistake of underestimating the significance of the U.S. market in terms of future growth opportunities.
“China and its dynamic growth naturally attracted a great deal of attention, but … the U.S. market is still the largest vehicle market in the world,” he emphasized. “In the light of current forecasts I expect this to remain so in this new year of 2011.”