More MBS CoverageTRAVERSE CITY, MI – If you’ve ever wondered how the head of an auto maker spends his spare time, Jim Press, president and chief operating officer-Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc., confesses he likes to while away the hours at maternity wards.

“If any of you ever get depressed and worry about the industry, take a Sunday, like I do sometimes, and go visit a hospital maternity ward,” Press says.

“Have you ever done that? What a great spot. Everybody’s happy…they’re showing off their babies. Those little plastic baskets with blue and pink blankets, and everybody’s smiling. Every one of those little baskets is 20 purchase cycles,” Press reasons as the crowd at the Management Briefing Seminars here roars.

“Right now today, talk about an industry of opportunity. As we sit here in our meeting, people are producing future customers for us right now.”

Other reasons not to be depressed about the U.S. auto industry? “People are living longer today, and they’re more affluent. They’re going to buy more cars and drive longer than any previous generation,” Press says.

“The Baby Boom generation will keep booming and zooming for years to come. They’re going to pry the steering wheel out of our hands.”

He says over the next 50 years, combining the birth rate plus immigration, the U.S. population is growing five times faster than that of China on a percentage basis. One new person is added to the U.S. population every 12 seconds.

Press predicts all these factors, combined, eventually will lead to annual industry sales of 20 million units or more. The record for most light-duty vehicles sold in the U.S. was set in 2000, when 17.4 million units were delivered.

cschweinsberg@primediabusiness.com