Jeff Schuster, who heads forecasting for J.D. Power and Associates, is fairly upbeat about the prospects for Detroit's three auto makers.
"GM (General Motors) and Chrysler have very different cost structures now than they did pre-bankruptcy, which is allowing them to be profitable at lower volumes. In addition, they have obviously made management changes and are refocusing attention on product," he told just-auto.com at a conference in London.
"Chrysler Group," he went on, "is doing a lot of refreshes to get through the current environment with the current lineup ahead of the new products that will come over the next two to four years. GM is in the process of launching new models and the Volt is going to give it a lot of attention in the marketplace later this year and early next year.
"Ford continues to post strong market share levels and Ford's product lineup is appealing to the American buyer right now."
The true test for Ford, however, is just ahead in 2011 and 2012.
"Will they be able to maintain the gains that they have achieved while the others were going through the restructuring, but are now starting to get into better shape?" he asked.
Some indications of Ford's future will come later this week at the Paris Auto Show. Ford will unwrap the first of several vehicles that will ride on the company's new C-platform. This is Ford's new compact vehicle architecture.
Ford has already shown the C-MAX and Grand C-MAX; next comes the new Focus in Paris. We'll get the Grand C-MAX and this Focus in Canada (and the U.S.). Eventually, the platform will spawn 10 models, accounting for a projected two million units a year.
Rainer Geschwentner, program manager for Ford of Europe, told the Financial Times that the C-MAX and Grand C-MAX is "the first application of the One Ford strategy ... The benefit to the customer will be a huge range of affordable technology and safety features."
The seven-seat Grand C-MAX which will be launched in North America next year; it will also form the basis of a hybrid and plug-in hybrid from 2013, Geschwentner told the Financial Times. The Focus will come in both sedan and hatchback versions, giving Ford Canada a full lineup of compact models.
No one can be sure how the new Fords will perform. But we have some hints in how the newly launched Fiesta subcompact is doing. Consider these numbers from the Power Information Network (PIN):
- Average Fiesta transaction price: $19,407, putting the Fiesta in the top five in its class, just ahead of the Honda Fit.
- Turn rate: 12 days. Fiestas are moving from dealer lots in a mere 12 days - the "lowest turn rate in the competitive set."
- Average buyer age: 43, which is much younger than buyers of rival subcompacts. Fit buyers average 49 years of age.
- Female buyers: 64 per cent. Ford, a pickup and SUV company for most of the last two decades, is drawing women to its showrooms with the Fiesta. Shocking.
- Cash buyers: about 50 per cent. Many Fiesta buyers are paying cash or are borrowing the money from someone other than Ford Credit in order to take advantage of Ford Canada's Employee Pricing promotion.
Ford can only hope this continues and that the coming C-platform products do as well.