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Big 3 Automakers: Road To Success May Be Overseas

Monday, 29 Oct 2007 | 9:17 AM ET

The latest reports in Automotive News about strong sales in Eastern Europe helping Ford and Toyota meet sales goals, confirms something I've been hearing for some time from Big 3 execs. Don't focus so much on the U.S. and lose sight of the real battle over global sales.

Sure the U.S. is still the world's largest auto market, and for GM , Ford, and Chrysler they don't want to let their market share here slide any further. It's already down to roughly 52%. The more it shrinks, the tougher it will be for them to turn a profit.

But what many people don't realize is how GM and Ford are growing overseas. Chrysler's global presence is minimal, but that's part of its vast potential.

Look at GM. Chevy is one of the fastest growing brands internationally. The company has high hopes the brand will stand out in Europe. That's why the company is spending so much money and effort targeting Chevy in relatively new markets like Russia. Speaking of Russia, Ford is already well established in that country. As its economy has heated up in the last two years, and so has Ford's potential profits in Russia.

And as we are seeing in Eastern Europe, Ford is gaining ground.

The point is it's not all gloom and doom for Detroit's automakers. Yes, they have serious problems here at home, but don't ignore GM being profitable overseas and considering adding shifts. Don't ignore the impact of Ford's Mondeo in Europe. And don't think the new owners of Chrysler aren't licking their chops at the potential in China where the company has virtually no cars on the road.

Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com

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  • Phil LeBeau is a CNBC auto and airline industry reporter based in the Chicago bureau and editor of the Behind the Wheel section on CNBC.com.

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