Američtí výrobci přesouvají výrobu malých a středních automobilů do Mexika

10. 2. 2016

  • Země: US - Spojené státy americké
  • Datum zveřejnění: 10.02.2016

Automakers start killing off small models

A combination of falling gas prices and the boomlet of higher-riding crossovers is forcing automakers to stop making certain passenger cars that don't generate sufficient sales or profits to satisfy Wall Street or American consumers.

Last month, Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said production of the Dodge Dart compact and Chrysler 200 midsize sedan would stop in the near future.

Last Wednesday, Toyota said it would scrap its youth-oriented Scion brand, which targeted younger consumers with quirky, sometimes cube-shape vehicles. Scion sales peaked at 173,000 in 2006, and aside from a modest resurgence in 2012, withered to 56,167 in 2015. Remaining stocks of Scion models will be sold as Toyotas for now.

Other manufacturers are shifting small and midsize car production to Mexico. Last year, Ford decided to stop building the Focus compact car and the C-Max hybrid and C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid at the Michigan Assembly Plant in 2018, and move it out of the U.S., most likely to Mexico where it already builds the subcompact Fiesta and is consolidating all midsize Fusion production.

Those moves mark a sharp turnabout.

"There has been a permanent shift toward utility vehicles and pickup trucks," Marchionne said. "And we have seen, certainly in terms of our ability to meet market demand, some severe restriction in terms of the dexterity of our manufacturing system to accomplish that end."

Contrast that statement with what Marchionne said in 2009, "In this market, if you don't have a competitive midsize sedan, you're a nobody."

Jack Vintartas of McHenry, Ill., started shopping last fall for a Chevrolet Sonic subcompact, but with a 5-year-old son, his wife reminded him they needed more cargo space. So they bought a Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, a compact crossover that competes with such models as Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V.

"My wife felt that especially during winter we’d be a little safer with an SUV-type vehicle," Vintartas said. "It sits quite a bit higher than a car and the greater storage space was definitely a plus."

This shift from subcompact and compact cars to higher-riding and not much larger crossovers and sport wagons is not new, but it's accelerating. In January, when Americans bought the same number of new vehicles as they did a year earlier, sales of small cars fell 11.3% while sales of sport wagons and crossovers rose 10.3%.

Falling gas prices also have nudged consumers to look at larger vehicles than they may have considered three years ago.

It's no secret that profit margins correlate strongly with vehicles' size and price, so this trend is what industry financial folks call a "tailwind."

Investors now expect automakers to earn a steady 10% gross profit (sales divided by the number of vehicles before taxes). While pickups, SUVs and luxury models exceed that, products in the middle or small end of the spectrum fall short.

It's unclear whether more small passenger cars will be dropped, but even General Motors, which will boost profit margins on its new Chevrolet Malibu and Cruze by about $1,500 per car because of a move to Mexico and some other factors, is closely watching the profitability of each model.

"We continue to re-evaluate how we deploy capital, where we deploy capital in order to drive appropriate returns across the business," Chuck Stevens, GM chief financial officer, said last week. "How do you effectively deploy capital in those segments with lower margins like small cars and compact cars?"

The bigger-is-better phenomenon is setting the stage for a political showdown in the next year over the government's Corporate Average Fuel Economy. In the wake of the 2009 financial crisis, the Obama administration backed, and Congress approved, a standard that would require automakers to reach a fleet average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

The actual target will vary because the regulation includes something called a "footprint adjustment" provision. That's a bureaucratic term for allowing different MPG requirements depending on a company's mix of passenger cars and light trucks.

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