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Predictions: 9 For '09 In Autos

In an industry going through as many changes as we've seen with the autos, it's probably not the smartest move to make predictions about what to expect in the next year. That said, here are my predictions.

1. Chrysler will be sold.

This isn't hard to imagine. The company is a shell of what it once was, it has just enough cash to stay out of bankruptcy, and the parent Cerberus wants to unload the company. The Big 3 will turn into the Big 2.

General Motors world headquarters, Detroit, Michigan
AP
General Motors world headquarters, Detroit, Michigan

2. General Motors will shed brands as it restructures.CEO Rick Wagoner loves all of GM's brands and will defend GM having eight, but with its bottom line being squeezed, I predict GM will want to free up research, marketing and overhead costs. Don't be surprised if one, and possibly more of GM's brands go on the block.

3. A Chinese auto maker will buy its way into the U.S. market.

Companies like Geely and SAIC have the desire to get a footprint in the U.S. and in a down market, '09 could be the time to buy a U.S. brand or slice of an auto maker.

4. Detroit will need more help.

The Big 3 CEOs will be back in Washington at least once to seek more money from Congress. The $25 billion they are seeking will not tide them over for long if the market remains tight, and I think it will be tight for at least the first half of the year.

5. Sales? What sales?

Auto sales will not pick up. Forget about incentives, forget about people holding off on what they want to buy. I think we will see sales remaining at these levels as the economy struggles to get going.

6. Going electric will charge up.

The push to develop electric models will pick up steam as the Obama administration encourages the industry and private research labs to continue pushing the envelope with electrically-powered vehicles.

7. Fiat will return to the US

The Italian auto maker wants to get back in the states and it has the chance to do so if it can buy a U.S. brand and the dealer network that goes with it.

8. Honda will officially pass Chrysler to become No. 4.

It happened a couple months this year, and with Hondasteadily rolling along while Chrysler is gasping for air, I expect Honda to become no. 4 by early next year.

9. SUVs will rebound.

SUVs will get more attention as lower gas prices will make people re-think the idea of driving a big rig. We won't see a return of the days when it seemed like everyone wanted an SUV, but they are going to see a bit of a rebound.

Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com

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