In 2006 at an automotive forum on which I was pleased to be included in the panel, a young automotive journalist asked me what shape the car industry might be in, in, say, 30 years time.
I replied that it would look nothing like it did in 2006. My view was, and still is, that mergers and acquisitions, or complete fadeout to zero of some brands and car companies was the likely outcome. I forecast that the car industry might be reduced to say, ten, vehicle-making companies.
In the April 10 edition of the esteemed British magazine, AUTOCAR, Aston Martin chief, Dr. Andy Palmer, virtually agreed – although his final tally was 14.
However, I have now revised my number down to eight. Here’s how I see it shaking out.
SURVIVORS, and the companies they will swallow might be:
TOYOTA – including Suzuki, Subaru, Mazda, Isuzu and Honda
VOLKSWAGEN GROUP – including Ford
GENERAL MOTORS – but only surviving thanks to strength in China
DAIMLER AG – including BMW, Aston Martin, and maybe Renault
TATA GROUP – including Tata, maybe Jaguar Land Rover, and Mahindra
GEELY – including Volvo, Lotus, Proton, Smart and its own products
HYUNDAI – including KIA, and anything left of Ssangyong
PSA – including Vauxhall and Opel
Many of these badges may survive, but not the companies.
Falling off the table will be NISSAN, if it follows current management practices, post-Ghosn.
Also, MITSUBISHI will be swallowed by Nissan, which will speed its failure.
FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES will be broken up and its brands swooped on by predators.
The automotive market is changing so rapidly (not just passenger cars being displaced by SUVs); but competing, rival, future technologies muddying the waters; lack of foresight by world governments on cost-effective infrastructure spending; availability (or lack of) rare elements such as cobalt and other exotic elements required for increasing numbers of EVs, and lack of co-ordination on power-generating technologies.
As Andy Palmer says the current business model for the auto industry is broken, but the fix will not be simple. Today’s car makers with sufficient liquidity currently will not be guaranteed survival, as costs mount, consumers tastes remain volatile, the rise of ride-sharing, and various derivatives of Uber.