Merrill Lynch Car Wars Report: A Bright Outlook for Ford, GM, Toyota


Over the last few years, new-guard brands including Hyundai and Kia have joined surprisingly strong runners such as Volkswagen in usurping share of the U.S. auto market, especially as the Great Recession and the Japanese natural disaster last year threw the entire industry into turmoil.

But it might be a surprise to know that one of the industry’s foremost gurus on Wall Street is predicting when the dust settles three years hence, the only significant gainers in market share compared with now will be three of the hoariest names in the business: Ford, General Motors and Toyota.

The reason, said John Murphy, of Merrill Lynch, in the latest version of his annual automotive sector three-year outlook, “Car Wars,” is that those old-guard brands will be doing the best job of replenishing their product lines. And in the car business, nothing matters as much to sales bursts and share gains as fresh sheet metal.[more]

“It’s a good harbinger for the industry at large,” Murphy told reporters on a call to discuss his projections. Overall product-launch activity is accelerating compared with a relative lull over the last three years.

Specifically, he predicted, Ford will add 0.8 percentage point by the 2015 model year, rising to 16 percent from its share of 15.3 percent for 2012 to date; GM will recover 0.5 percentage point of share, rising to 18.3 percent; and Toyota will gain 0.3 percent of share, rising to 14.6 percent from 14.3 percent, which already is higher by 1.4 percent than the share Toyota had during its supply-constrained 2011.

Strong new-product pipelines for GM and Ford, and their increasing ability to spread common global vehicle platforms across a number of national markets, will boost their prospects, Murphy said.

Meanwhile, however, he predicted no net share gain for Chrysler, Honda, Nissan or European brands, including the newly aggressive Volkswagen brand, because they’re going to be outgunned in the showroom by the old guard’s stream of new products.

And for Hyundai and Kia, Murphy predicted a 0.5-percentage-point decline in market share. They’ve been conquesting sales all over the United States over the last few years, of course, but Murphy sees the Korean brands’ momentum slowing for the next three years largely because their collective “product cadence appears to remain volatile, indicating market-share gains should slow.”