Chicago may be the "windy city" but there weren't any ill-breezes blowing as automakers unveil new products at the auto show here. Although there has been some speculation that another sales slump is right around the corner, most auto executives poo-poo the idea.
Chrysier Corp. President Robert A. Lutz says he disagrees that it's the end of the "boom." He says the Federal Reserve's recent interest rate hike won't hurt sales, but actually will prolong growth, just at a slower pace. Mr. Lutz forecasts 15.9 million to 16.1 million U.S. vehicle sales this year and 17 million in 1996.
Talk that the minivan market may suffer is completely off target, he adds. "I'm 110% confident that for the next number of years we're going to be sold out of every new minivan we can build," Mr. Lutz says.
Motor Co. Chairman Alex Trotman says he thinks the Fed "has gotten it right" in adjusting interest rates to help keep inflation down without hampering growth. He forecasts the market to be at 15.8 million to 15.9 million in 1995, with 3% annual growth over that in 1996 and 1997. Ford Vice Presidents Keith C. Magee and Ross H. Roberts both say they don't believe predictions that the days of record-breaking sales are over. On the contrary, sales have not peaked yet, Mr. Roberts maintains.
GMC Truck officials also are optimistic that the market will continue to grow, albeit at a slower pace, especially the light truck segment. GMC Truck General Sales Manager Fred E. Cook predicts that his division's sales will hit 700,000 within the next several years. He forecasts retail deliveries at about 476,000 units in 1995.
Buick Div. General Manager Edward H. Mertz says there will be only incremental growth in overall sales during the next several years, but volume will stay at "a nice plateau
Jerry G. O'Connor, AmericanMotors Inc. senior vice president and general manager of marketing, forecasts U.S. sales to come in at about 15.4 million this year. He says the interest rate hike may have a slight impact on consumer confidence, so Isuzu plans to heavily market more affordable leasing plans for the '95 Rodeo.
Things look so good thatMotor Sales U.S.A. Inc. is continuing to study ways to increase its truck capacity, says James E. Lentz, national manager of the Pickup and Sport/ Utility Vehicle Team. But it's unlikely that it will enter into any sort of agreement with Corp. to buy or rent one of its plants as has been rumored, he says. "If we're going to do anything it's more likely we'll do it on our own," he says.
Motor Sales, U.S.A. Inc. Senior Vice President-Toyota Div. General Manager J. Davis Illingworth won't comment on the company's need for additional production capacity, particularly in light trucks. But he does say the company has not ended its quest for a V-8 engine for the T100 pickup.