Auto Industry Rebound: The Brakes Are On For A While

Car dealership in Miami
Car dealership in Miami

In the last three weeks, the message has been coming from a variety of sources, but it's generally been the same: forget about the auto industry rebounding anytime soon.

In fact, some are saying things may get worse before they get better.

The latest warning comes from Ford CEO Alan Mulally. Thursday, after Ford's second quarter earnings loss, Mulally and I talked. When I asked him when Ford will be back in the black, he wouldn't give a timeline, but did say, "when the economy rebounds, then we will be in the black." What about auto sales? He doesn't expect an uptick until early 2010.

Mulally, like others in the industry, would love to see sales come back sooner. But, he's playing it conservative and I can't blame him.

This slowdown goes beyond people transitioning to smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles. There's also the fact, more and more people are worried about signing up for a new car truck that requires a lengthy auto loan. It's that reluctance the industry, not just the big 3, have to overcome.

So don't expect much in the next 6-9 months. The automakers are gearing up to win in 2010. And this time, the battle will be fought primarily with small cars, not SUVs and trucks.

Questions? Comments?