Auto industry poised for recovery

TORONTO — The beleaguered auto industry is poised for a slow but steady turnaround in 2010 that will usher in an era of profitability and job growth after years of declines, according to a new industry forecast.

TORONTO — The beleaguered auto industry is poised for a slow but steady turnaround in 2010 that will usher in an era of profitability and job growth after years of declines, according to a new industry forecast.

The Conference Board of Canada, a private-sector economic forecaster, said the auto sector isn’t necessarily out of trouble but there are encouraging signs that profits will return in 2010 and strengthen each year through to at least 2014.

“The Canadian auto industry appears to have turned a corner in the second half of 2009 and is expected to return to profitability in 2010,” economist Sabrina Browarski wrote in the report.

“However, production will remain below historical levels,” Browarski added. “Manufacturers will have to make concerted and ongoing efforts to streamline product line-ups, control costs, and innovate to maintain profitability.”

The Conference Board said the industry will close 2009 with a $2.3-billion loss before taxes, but Canadian auto assemblers including the Japanese carmakers Toyota and Honda will have a collective profit of $100 million in the final quarter.

Still, the Conference Board expects Canadian production for all of 2009 to be about half of what it was in 2007, due to a halt in production by Chrysler and General Motors at the beginning of 2009.

“In fact, real production this year will fall below levels not seen since the 1992 recession,” the report said.

The forecast for 2010 sees the industry returning to the black with before-tax profits of $263 million, a number which will rise to just under $2 billion in 2014.

The Conference Board indicated that conditions south of the border will determine the pace of recovery for Canadian auto producers because 84 per cent of production is destined for the U.S. market.

In the United States, vehicle sales are expected to edge up to 11.6 million units in 2010, with industry revenues rising by nearly 38 per cent.

Tony Faria, co-director of the automotive research centre at the University of Windsor, said the report is on par with analysts’ predictions that the market is slowly returning.

“The expectation is that 2010 (and) 2011 will be rather slow growth years in the auto industry,” he said.

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