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U.S. Manufacturers At NAIAS 2015 Set To Fight Off German Assault

U.S. Manufacturers At NAIAS 2015 Set To Fight Off German Assault.

Battery-Only Chevy Bolt Has Claimed 200 Mile Range.
BMW, Audi, Mercedes Headline German Launches.
Lower Oil Price, Falling Euro Will Help Europeans.

“Volkswagen will probably be slightly up in 2015, mostly because it had such a bad 2014”

Mercedes, BMW and Audi led the European assault on the U.S. market with new SUVs, sports saloons and coupes at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show, but local manufacturers are finally coming up with some effective competition.

New models unveiled at the show included the Chevrolet Bolt battery-only concept car with a claimed 200 mile range. Honda’s Acura subsidiary finally nailed down the design of the NSX sports car, which had appeared as a concept for a couple of years. The mid-engine, twin-turbocharged hybrid goes on sale later this year. Ford unveiled a high-performance GT supercar. Volvo announced it will import a long-wheel based version of its S60 which it makes in China.

The Europeans, fresh from a strong 2014, will be helped this year by the fall in the value of the euro against the dollar, and will share with U.S. manufacturers the boost to sales to the gas-guzzling end of the market from the surprising and deep fall in the price of oil.

New vehicles from the upmarket Germans include a sporty SUV from Mercedes-Benz, the GLE Coupe, a big new SUV from Audi, the Q7, and a revamped BMW 6-series range. The 6-series comprises a two-door coupe, a convertible and a four-door Gran Coupe, which made their world debut.

U.S. manufacturers though are getting ready to raise their game, according to Kelley Blue Book senior analyst Karl Brauer.

“The high-end, high-performance European cars are poised to succeed, but so are the largest SUVs and trucks produced by the domestic manufacturers, and those have been growing faster than the luxury brands in the past year, though the luxury brands have grown too. Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche should continue to grow in 2015, but probably not as quickly as brands like (FCA’s) Jeep and Ram or models like the (Ford) F-150, Ram 1500, (Chevrolet) Silverado, Suburban, (Jeep) Cherokee and other trucks and SUVs,” Brauer said.

Made in Poland
New models from domestic producers also included GM’s Cadillac CTS-V. GM’s Buick launched the Buick Cascada, designed by Opel and made in Poland.

The European threat will be helped by the 13 per cent rise in the dollar against the euro since mid-year. But the yen has fallen even more, 15 per cent over the same timescale, so expect an increasing threat, especially from Japanese manufacturers still making large proportions of their vehicles at home. Japanese content ranges from 85 per cent for Mazda down to Nissan and Toyota’s 52 per cent and 48 per cent, while Honda is the lowest with 22 per cent.

Not all the Europeans are flying high.

Volkswagen, which owns Audi and Porsche, can’t seem to fire up its own name brand, and U.S. sales fell in 2014 by 10 per cent to 366,970. Analysts blame a shortage of new models for VW’s lack of success, and it unveiled a new concept SUV at Detroit’s NAIAS, a five-seater to join the already announced 7-seater scheduled to go on sale in 2016. VW has to go some if it is to get anywhere near its target of 800,000 cars a year in North America by 2018.

Brauer sees some hope for VW.

“Volkswagen will probably be slightly up in 2015, mostly because it had such a bad 2014. But the all-new Golf is doing very well and that should bring the brand up a bit. The new SUV is too far away to help VW in 2015, but it will help in 2016. Yet even with the SUV coming to the market in the next 12-15 months, it is hard to imagine VW hitting its 2018 goal,” Brauer said.

The VW Golf was awarded the 2015 North American Car of the Year award in Detroit.

Most analysts expect the U.S market to grow strongly again in 2015. IHS Automotive sees sales of 16.9 million this year, up from 16.5 million in 2014. Anna-Marie Baisden, auto analyst at British based Business Monitor International sees 17 million this year. GM CEO Mary Barra expects 2015 sales of between 16.5 million to 17 million, in other words flat to up about three per cent.

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