Stateside: A 2012 review of the auto industry

Dec 20, 2012

The auto industry had some big stories in 2012.

Stateside spoke with Michelle Krebs, senior analyst at edmunds.com, and Tracy Samilton, auto beat reporter for Michigan Radio about this past automotive year. 

Sales are up in Detroit's 'Big Three' automotive companies, and the companies are adding jobs.

One of the biggest themes this year was fuel efficiency, especially with the new government Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards.

In order to achieve the standards, "there will have to be some technological breakthroughs and some cost breakthroughs," says Krebs. 

If those goals are not met, Samilton thinks there will be serious talks about increasing the costs of gas.

This year, the opposing presidential campaigns highlighted the auto bailout. Krebs reflects that she had never seen the auto industry so politicized. Much of the debate revolved around a New York Times op-ed piece written by Romney with the headline, "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt."

General Motors will be buying back its stock from the government. Samilton says GM is "anxious to get rid of its nickname, 'Government Motors'". Buying back its stock will also free up GM from exhaustive paperwork, and various restrictions concerning how much GM can pay its employees.  

Consumer spending in the U.S. is driven by car sales. Auto sales are "picking up the economy much more than its being credited for", says Samilton. The Federal Treasury said that half of the growth of the first quarter of this year was from auto sales. 

At the upcoming North American International Auto Show, Samilton and Krebs say fuel efficiency will be the theme again. The mood should be positive coming out of a good year, and heading into a promising one.

Some debuts? Cadillac has a new electric coup, the ELR.  Lincoln is showing a new crossover. Samilton is hopeful that people will be enthusiastic about it. 

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