GM and Ford are currently facing disaster because of dismal sales with fixed healthcare and retirement obligations. Yet, German and Japanese automakers are looking good with rising sales. The reason? Ford and GM are dependent upon high profit SUV sales, but SUV sales are crashing through the floor due to high gas prices.

Scott Sprinzen, and auto industry analyst for Standard & Poors says GM and Ford “have shown little ability to foresee market trends, such as the demand for crossover utility vehicles and gasoline-electric hybrids.” Ford annouced plans to produce gas-electric hybrids to be available in 2010. 2010? Five years from now?

Where have we heard this before? Since the first oil crisis in the mid-1970s, the American automakers have repeatedly had the same problems and made the same long-term mistakes.

The story about GM and Ford being short-sided, not recognizing long-term trends, sacrificing market share for temporary sales of huge vehicles, could have been written 30 years ago, 20 years ago or 10 years ago. In fact, it was.

The auto industry constitutes a significant part of the economy. But while Toyota trots out its Prius to long waiting lists of customers seeking discounts, Ford does nothing until forced to say it will try to do the same – in 5 years. Check back in 5 years. Ford and GM will be considerably smaller companies.

Detroit Deja Vu
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