U.S. auto sales rose 11% in December, capping a year that suggests the industry is on the verge of one of the most dramatic shifts in its history.
For most of the past century, the U.S. car industry was dominated by General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC. Now, as a result of both long-term trends and the upheaval of the last two years, the Big Three are about to be replaced by a Gang of Seven as the industry’s driving force.
In 2010, Hyundai Motor Co. saw its U.S. market share climb to just short of 5%. If the Korean auto maker crosses that threshold as expected this year, the U.S. market will have seven manufacturers—GM, Ford, Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co., Chrysler,Nissan Motor Co. and Hyundai—with market share of 5% or more. That’s a dramatic shift from the days when the three Detroit companies dominated the market and dictated the industry’s direction.
“I think it’s fair to say we are entering a new era,” said Jim Press, a former Toyota and Chrysler executive now working as a consultant to several vehicle makers. “You have a completely different situation when you have six or seven companies that are all established, with a significant customer base. It’s not like the old days when it was the Big Three and then all these little guys.”
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