TRAVERSE CITY, MI – An all-new study of the auto industry’s “structural” competitiveness is due for release in October by the Harbour-Felax Group.

The North American Automotive Competitiveness Study, outlined by President Laurie Harbour-Felax at the Center for Automotive Research Management Briefing Seminars here, will analyze the profit-per-vehicle gap between auto makers, which in many cases stretches to thousands of dollars.

The Harbour-Felax Group builds on the well-regarded Harbour Report series of competitive studies first released in 1980 by Jim Harbour, retired chairman of Harbour Consulting.

Laurie Harbour-Felax says the new report will examine how various business, product-development and manufacturing factors influence profit-per-vehicle figures for each of the six auto makers included in the study. The list includes DaimlerChrysler AG, Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp., Honda Motor Co. Ltd. Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. and Toyota Motor Corp.

Competitive factors examined include:

  • Labor.
  • Capacity.
  • Yen exchange rate.
  • Investment/research and development.
  • Product, process and design engineering.

Harbour-Felax says in 2005, DC earned $145 per vehicle in North America; Ford lost $457 and GM dropped $1,271 per unit.

Transplant auto makers, meanwhile, fared markedly better. Honda earned $1,257 per vehicle, Nissan made $2,135 and Toyota banked $1,715 per vehicle.

She says the recent numerous plant closings, restructurings and job cuts still aren’t getting to the root cause of the industry’s profit disparity, which she blames on structural issues that will be detailed in the report.

GM, for example, already appears to be making major changes. Its revenue per vehicle was $4,000 greater in the first half of this year than in like-2005.

Harbour-Felax says the study results point to a “major paradigm shift we refuse to take,” in terms of changing structural processes.

She says the study will demonstrate a vital need for collaboration between auto makers and suppliers, so both sides can become more flexible and better manage complexity.

Harbour-Felax points to one anecdotal story to underline the difference between one profitable auto maker and another that isn’t profitable.

For one model being produced in a volume of about a half-million units, the unprofitable auto maker employed 81 different side mirrors. The profitable company used just two different side mirrors.

“The goal of this study is to increase the knowledge of these issues and their root causes to better improve the chances of a strong, sustainable North American automotive industry,” Harbour-Felax says.

“The analysis of the critical issues that affect the automotive industry will help OEMs and suppliers make the transformation needed to stay competitive.”

bvisnic@wardsauto.com