Can we do 16 million cars?

Mike Jackson, the CEO of AutoNation, the big publicly held consortium of car dealers, says pickup trucks are flying out of his stores. He sees this activity as a refection of the confidence of small business around the U.S.

Jackson is predicting a two or three year ramp-up to the 16 million car build rate, which has traditionally been the standard of automotive well being. With GM and Ford solidly in the black at 11.5 million units they will be coining money at 16. My question is whether the auto infrastructure can quickly accommodate 16 million. From a precision machining standpoint we are beginning to push the comfortable limits of production now in place. A 40 to 50 percent increase in build rate will strain everybody to meet requirements.

I talked to Kevin Meehan of Hydromat recently about the ability of his clients to expand production. He’s seeing some activity, but he thinks the big Tier Ones in Europe, particularly those in Germany, will be in the catbird seat to provide the sophisticated assemblies that will be in short supply. The Germans maintained their automotive infrastructure, while in North America we allowed the market to gut part of the supply chain.

The opportunity to get fat and happy during the impending U.S. car up tick may be more a bonanza for the Germans than for companies in the New World.

Question: Do you think Fiat is actually turning around Chrysler?

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