Americans drive on in multitude of brands

With the exception of those who believe we should be living in caves and commuting on dinosaurs, the news that U.S. auto sales rose 11 percent in 2010 is welcome, indeed. It hints at an economic recovery for the nation, and steady jobs in the auto manufacturing sector.

But it doesn’t mean that the auto business in this country will continue to be dominated by General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, as has historically been the case. Instead of the Big Three, Americans are now eagerly buying products from the Big Seven. In addition to the U.S. companies listed above, Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Hyundai are major players in this country. All of those foreign companies have manufacturing plants in the United States.

It was one of those companies, Hyundai, that saw the greatest gains in U.S. sales last year, increasing by 24 percent, according to The Wall Street Journal. But U.S. mainstay Ford wasn’t far behind, with increased sales of 20 percent in 2010.

Ford, of course, was the only one of the Big Three U.S. companies that didn’t receive government bailout money. Additionally, it has redesigned much of its auto lineup to keep up with consumer tastes, and its light trucks remain as popular as ever.

Still, Chrysler saw an 18 percent increase in sales last year, and GM had a respectable 7 percent increase. Of the top seven manufacturers, only Toyota, which suffered through highly publicized problems with its braking systems last year, saw a decline in sales in 2010. Its sales dropped about one half of 1 percent.

Americans have been enamored with automobiles since before the first Model T rolled off Henry Ford’s assembly line. And they have sought ways to buy new cars through good times and bad.

But the fierce loyalty that once existed to particular brands appears to be changing. Many drivers are switching to companies that offer high quality and vehicles that better meet their needs.

U.S. manufacturers are already proving they can compete in this changing market. We hope they continue to do so and that the rising auto sales are truly an indication of an economy on the cusp of recovery.


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