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Analysts See More Balance, Foreign Presence In Future US Auto Market

By SHARON TERLEP Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES DEARBORN, Michigan -(Dow Jones)- General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. (F) and Toyota Motor Corp. (TM) will have roughly the same U.S. market share and comparable production levels by 2015, when normalcy returns to an auto industry transformed by recession and bankruptcy, industry analysts predict. By then, the days of one auto maker dominating the world's most profitable automotive market will be over, as competition intensifies among global players. None of the top auto makers will claim more than around 20% of the U.S. market in the next decade, in contrast to the 1960s, when GM once held over 50% of U.S. sales. While Detroit auto makers further lose their grip on the U.S. market, other players will grow and emerge, including Chinese and Indian companies, which are expected to enter the U.S. within the next decade. The predictions were laid out Wednesday at an industry event to forecast the future of the global auto industry. "Everything we could do wrong, we did," said George Magliano, director of North American auto industry research for IHS Global Insight, referring to missteps in the U.S. auto industry, from over-discounting vehicles to issuing risky loans in an effort to artificially boost sales. "We really build a huge imbalance in our marketplace." The next few years see a rebalancing of that marketplace. The implications reach beyond the auto companies. U.S. suppliers will have to move to win business from non-U.S. based companies poised to grow. Regions of the U.S. will feel the effects, as factories close in traditional Midwestern manufacturing locales and more plants open in southern states. U.S. auto sales, on track to hit the lowest levels in decades, will begin to recover in 2010, according to Global Insight data. But it will likely be 2014 or 2015 until annual sales reach the 17 million vehicles a year seen early this decade. In 2015, Detroit auto makers will sell around 6.5 million vehicles, just over half what they sold in 2000, Global Insight predicts. On the production side, U.S.-based auto makers are expected to build about half the vehicles in the U.S., down from nearly 70% in 2000. Production, meantime, will grow at Toyota, Honda Motor Co. (HMC), Nissan Motor Co. (NSANY) and Hyundai Corp. The news was bleakest for Chrysler Group LLC, steeped in uncertainty despite its merger with Italian auto maker Fiat SpA. Auto analyst John Casesa, of the Casesa Shapiro Group, predicted Chrysler will soon no longer be among the world's top 10 auto makers. GM, which emerged from a government-funded bankruptcy in June, remains at risk in the long term, he said. "The process salvaged GM and Chrysler, but it can't assure long-term viability," he said. Ford, while benefiting from its status as the only U.S. auto maker to forgo government loans, could be hurt down the road, Casesa said. Ford produces $1,038 in debt for each vehicle it makes, Casesa said, while GM and the other four major auto makers earn profits. The figure, derived from auto maker sales and earnings data, illustrate the disadvantage Ford faces after GM and Chrysler offloaded their debt in government-funded bankruptcies. -By Sharon Terlep, Dow Jones Newswires; 248-204-5532; sharon.terlep@ dowjones.com.

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