Which automaker stands the best change of gobbling up more of the U.S. light vehicle market in the near future? According to the results of a newly released study, and not entirely unsurprising, it’s two of the world’s largest automakers.
General Motors and Toyota are each planning a slew of new and refreshed products over the next few years — something which should serve to lure buyers away from other brands. Among domestic automakers, one brand is forecast to suffer at the hands of its Detroit rival’s success. You know the one.
The annual Car Wars study prepared by Bank of America Merrill Lynch serves as a crystal ball for the next four years, though one analyst feels early sales projections are too high. Analysts at the bank’s investment division have predicted this year’s U.S. sales will reach 17.9 million, up from last year’s record 17.41 million. So far, 2017 isn’t panning out the way analysts wished.
John Murphy, senior auto analyst for Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Research, claims the numbers from the first four months point to a 17.1 million sales year. That’s below last year and 2015. Murphy also predicts a bump for 2018, followed by a slow climbdown in sales. By the middle of the next decade, U.S. consumers might only snap up 13 or 14 million vehicle per year. Blame a glut of off-lease vehicles for the weaker demand.
While the skyrocketing increase in sales following the recession has tapered off, the competition to grow market share isn’t cooling off. Between 2018 and 2021, 85 percent of Toyota vehicles will be refreshed or new, just one percent ahead of GM’s product turnover. Ford follows the pair with an 83-percent replacement rate, but its big ticket products won’t appear until after the 2018 model year. Among them, the upcoming Ranger midsize pickup and Bronco SUV deserve top billing.
“They really are doing a great job of refreshing their product portfolio,” Murphy told the Automotive Press Association on Thursday, referring to Toyota. As for GM, it is “doing fairly well and they should be in a position, presuming the market holds together, to actually gain a little bit of market share and maintain price.”
In his report, Murphy expects flat market share growth for both Ford and Honda. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which plans to introduce a next-generation Jeep Wrangler, Grand Cherokee, Ram 1500 pickup within the next two years, holds a 81-percent replacement rate. While the automaker stands to lose market share, its “extreme overexposure” in the truck and SUV market seems like a solid gamble, given American buying habits, Murphy said.
Of European automakers, which hold a combined 79-percent replacement rate, Volkswagen’s aggressive product push will likely see it gain sales and market share. The same can’t be said for Nissan which, at 77 percent, holds the lowest replacement rate in the industry. The bulk of the Japanese automaker’s new products won’t appear until near the end of the four-year period. “Nissan still seems like it’s a boat adrift,” Murphy said.