Special Coverage

New York Int’l Auto Show

NEW YORK – Mark LaNeve, General Motor Corp.’s North America sales and marketing chief, reiterates his belief the U.S. auto industry will rebound in the year’s second half.

“But I’m not as confident as I was a few months ago,” he admits at the New York auto show here.

There is a “little less reason to feel optimistic,” he says, citing continuing problems in the credit market.

But LaNeve also notes the industry is running 2 million units below the trend line established two years ago, when 17.4 million vehicles were sold in the U.S. “That means there is a lot of pent-up demand,” he says.

Industry sales of fullsize pickups are running 300,000-400,000 units below trend. “The pickup business is tough, but we’re holding our market share,” LaNeve says, adding it will continue to be tough sledding in the segment until the housing market recovers.

Meanwhile, GM is looking to the new Chevrolet Malibu and Traverse cross/utility vehicle –due to be released later this year – to help buoy sales.

“We’re back in the game big time in midsize cars and crossovers,” LaNeve says. “We’ll continue to hammer away at our competitors.”

While conceding the Malibu will not take big chunks out of the competition’s market share, LaNeve claims the auto maker is seeing Honda Accord and Toyota Camry owners trading in their vehicles for the new sedan. “We will have an impact with the Malibu,” he promises.

Meanwhile, GM’s overall market share was stable in the year’s first two months.

“I expect our share this year to be flat or down very slightly,” LaNeve says. “If we perform (well) in passenger cars, we can have a share gain this year. If it’s one-tenth of a percent, I’d be happy.”