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GM on Its Way Back, But Electric Cars? Nah.

Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Auto sales surge well above 15 million.

Depending on which analyst you talk with, auto sales in 2013 will move gradually higher and total around 15.1 million vehicles. Call me crazy, but I think auto sales will surge well above 15 million next year. Why? I believe the steadily improving economy, a recovery in the housing market (key to pick-up truck demand) and the still lingering pent-up demand will drive a greater than expected number of Americans to buy a new car or truck in 2013.

GM shares will finally move above their IPO price.

The GM haters will chortle at this prediction.That's fine. The haters are ignoring a number of things that will get investors to continue pushing GM shares above their IPO price of $33/share. U.S. profits will post solid growth in 2013 as the new Chevy Silverado hits showrooms. Europe is still a mess, but close to a bottom. And yes, I believe during the next 12 months the Treasury Department will signal plans to sell its GM stake, giving the shares a long anticipated boost.

Lincoln and Cadillac will stay stuck in neutral.

In 2013 GM and Ford will both make concerted efforts to kick start their lagging luxury brands. As much as I applaud their ambitions to become true players in the hyper competitive luxury auto segment, I don't see either one moving the needle in 2013. Why? Not enough new products and competitors who are so aggressive and on the ball they won't give up any ground. If Cadillac and Lincoln are going to make inroads on Mercedes, BMW and Lexus (not to mention Audi, Acura and Infiniti) they will need more time and products to convince luxury buyer to give them a try.

VW, Toyota will surge past GM in global sales.

They've been nipping at GM's heels for the last year, but in 2013 Toyota and Volkswagen will finally pass General Motors in global sales. Toyota will ride the wave of booming sales in the U.S. and southeast Asia while VW will flex its muscles in China and Europe to pass GM. Fortunately for GM fans (and investors) the company is more focused on profitability than on market share. So even though the largest automaker in the U.S. may fall behind in the global race, it will post one of its most profitable years ever in 2013.

The electric car market will stay unplugged.

With the exception of Tesla, which should see solid sales growth with its Model S sedan in 2013, Americans are not ready to plug into electric cars. They are still too expensive compared to hybrids and pure gas powered cars. The segment also lacks a breakthrough moment or car. Until mass market electric vehicles have their "Prius," they will be viewed as niche cars that appeal to a small group of buyers.

PREDICTIONS 2012: LEBEAU'S SCORECARD


Looking ahead to 2014

Video

  • CNBC's Sharon Epperson shares her outlook on oil, gold, copper and corn next year, and Dan Dicker, MercBloc president, provides his energy forecast for 2013 and the best way to play oil and gas.

  • Defense companies are sure to be affected if we go over the "fiscal cliff" because of automatic spending cuts to the industry, reports CNBC's Jane Wells.

  • CNBC's Simon Hobbs takes a look at some of the major travel trends in 2013.

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