Global Auto Executives See a Stabilized Industry, New Investment and Growth Over the Next Five Years, But Profitability Still a Concern, Says KPMG Survey

Senior executives continue to predict an increase in M&A activity driven primarily by technology requirements and overcapacity

Jan 07, 2010, 05:30 ET from KPMG LLP

DETROIT, Jan. 7 /PRNewswire/ -- While still emerging from a period of historical crisis few had anticipated, senior global automotive executives see their industry stabilizing over the next five years with new investment and growth on the horizon, according to the 11th annual global automotive survey by KPMG LLP, the U.S. audit, tax and advisory firm.

However, the 200 senior executives representing vehicle manufacturers and suppliers worldwide, say they continue to face certain economic headwinds including high unemployment rates, particularly in the U.S., better but still constrained credit markets and lack of clarity with regard to the impact of new government regulations and stimulus programs. Accordingly, executives still see profitability as a significant issue this year; although just over one-quarter of them expect vehicle manufacturer profits to increase, while almost 40 percent expected profits to be stable and 33 percent expect a decline.

"While this year's survey results are considerably more optimistic than last year, global executives will remain cautious, continuing to keep a close eye on cash flow and cost control, which is not a surprise given the tumult in the industry," said Gary Silberg, National Automotive Industry leader for KPMG LLP. "The respondents believe the winners will be those companies able to gain market share in an uncertain economic environment while also leveraging global products and supply chains."

Predicting Market Share Winners

When asked to predict global market share winners over the next five years, the auto executives identified various new Chinese and Indian vehicle manufacturers, as well as existing global players Kia/Hyundai, Toyota, Honda and Volkswagen as leaders again this year. Ford climbed more than two-fold among the respondents in this year's survey, as 29 percent of executives expect its market share to increase this year versus 13 percent of the respondents last year. General Motors and Chrysler remained on the low rung of market share expectations.

Mergers and Acquisitions Expected To Increase

Nearly three-quarters of the KPMG survey respondents believe the number of alliances, mergers and acquisitions during the next five years will increase for vehicle manufacturers. Substantial majorities also think they will increase for tier one suppliers (just over 70 percent), tier two suppliers (56 percent) and dealers (52 percent). These numbers are consistent with last year's results.

According to the survey, the specific global drivers of alliances, mergers and acquisitions include too much debt and risk of bankruptcy (89 percent), access to new technologies and products (84 percent), potential for product synergies (83 percent), and access to new markets and customers (82 percent).

Overcapacity Remains Significant Worry

Despite the deep cuts in capacity during the past few years, almost nine in ten executives are still concerned about overcapacity - of those, just over one-third say there is 11-20 percent overcapacity in the U.S. and another one-third say it is in the 21-30 percent range. Similar numbers exist for both Western Europe and Japan, where respondents see overcapacity as an issue by nearly 81 percent and 75 percent respectively. And while only seven recent of the execs see overcapacity as a serious issue right now in China, 33 percent have concerns in 3-5 years and 31 percent in the next 6-10 years.

"The executives are saying that while they've come a long way in the past year, they still have further to go in 'right-sizing' the supply-and-demand equation," KPMG's Silberg added. "The executives are saying that despite a year of closures and bankruptcies, overcapacity on a global basis remains an issue - which is one of the key reasons that restructuring in the industry will continue and M&A activity will likely increase."

Most Important Issues

When asked about the most important issues affecting the global auto industry over the next 12 months, 85 percent of the respondents said developing new technologies, while just over 84 percent pointed to developing new products and another 80 percent said reducing costs.

In a related question, nine of ten executives in the KPMG survey expect vehicle manufacturers to increase their investment over the next two years in new technologies and new models/products while just fewer than 30 percent expect investment in new plants. Asked the same question about an increase in investment by suppliers, 91 percent of the execs said they expected increased investment in new technologies, 78 percent in new models/products and only 28 percent in new plants.

"With the execs telling us that investment is back on the table this year, the vehicle manufacturers understand there is pent-up demand for new cars, especially in the United States, which still has one of the highest per capita car ownership rate in the world," said Silberg. "With a growing population, a steady scrappage rate of old vehicles, and Americans' love for the open road, the U.S. auto industry could be in for a better year ahead, particularly if unemployment numbers fall."

Sales of Hybrids, Alternative Fuel Vehicles to Increase

The KPMG survey respondents overwhelmingly agreed that the sale of hybrid fuel vehicles could help the auto industry get back on its feet is the sale of hybrid fuel vehicles. A full 93 percent think unit sales of hybrids will increase the most in the next five years, followed by other alternative fuel vehicles (83 percent) and low cost or introduction cars (82 percent).

Identifying Demand

The KPMG survey asked the executives to identify the regions (not including the BRIC countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China), where consumer demand for autos will grow the fastest over the next five years. More than 37 percent of the execs believe the fastest growth in auto sales will occur in South East Asia while just over 30 percent believe that growth will occur in Eastern Europe.

In the KPMG survey, conducted during late September through early November 2009, the 200 executives interviewed represented vehicle manufacturers and suppliers in the United States, Canada, Mexico, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Sweden, India, China, South Korea, Japan, Thailand, Brazil, Spain, Poland, Slovakia, Russia, Czech Republic, Italy, Switzerland, South Africa and Australia. KPMG has released an annual survey of automotive executives expressing their views on the state of the industry since 1999.


KPMG LLP, the audit, tax and advisory firm (, is the U.S. member firm of KPMG International. KPMG International's member firms have 137,000 professionals, including more than 7,600 partners, in 144 countries.

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