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Big Three Automakers: What's Their Biggest Threat?

Tuesday, 17 Jun 2008 | 10:28 AM ET
Big 3's Biggest Threat
CNBC.com
Big 3's Biggest Threat

Over the last two weeks I've been inundated with e-mails from readers venting about the latest round of cutbacks Detroit's automakers have announced.

What's surprised me the most has been the wide range of reasons why you think the Big 3 are in big trouble. So I figure it's time for an informal poll. All of the following reasons are a threat to them. What I want to know is which one of these is, in your opinion, the BIGGEST issue challenging the domestic automakers in the next 2 years, and why?

1. Rising gas prices.

They're already killing truck and SUV sales, the profit centers for the Big 3.

2. The economy.

It ain't great and consumer confidence is under pressure. If it continues to lag, can Detroit weather weaker sales.

3. Tight liquidity.

Fordis leveraged to the hilt, GM'ssold many of it's most valuable non-core assets, and there is a limit to how much cash Cerberus capital will extend to Chrysler in order to get it back on track. They're all fine for now, but what if the losses drag well into 2009 or 2010.

4. Foreign competition.

Toyota's nipping at GM's heels to become #1 in the U.S., and Honda is on a roll. The foreign automakers, not just the Asian companies, have the liquidity and the cars that are connecting with buyers.

5. Alternative powered vehicle race.

The Prius has given Toyota a huge edge in terms of public perception about which automakers have "green" cars. Honda's hydrogen fuel cell FCX Clarity will get plenty of attention, and Nissan is promising an electric car by 2010. Yes, GM's electric Chevy Volt is on the way, but what about Ford and Chrysler? Do they have game changers in the pipeline?

Take the poll and write to me.

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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