As much of the industry continues to lament a downturn in sales, one auto executive says he isn't worried about a temporary dip during the next few years.
Wolfgang Reitzle, president of Ford Motor Co.'s Premier Automotive Group, says that after seven years of super sales, a 10% to 15% drop isn't a concern. It's in the short-term, and the industry has to cope with it, he says.
"It has nothing to do with the long-term sustainable growth we will see," he says.
In the meantime, companies must work to make the industry more stable and profitable. One way to do that is to phase out overcapacity and vehicles that have been highly rebated. Mr. Reitzle says overcapacity has created a competition of rebates more than products.
Automakers are building cars that no one wants, and then placing high incentives on the vehicles to sell them. Get rid of those vehicles and subsequent incentives and eventually it will improve the structure of the industry, he says.
He says his Premier Auto Group will play to consumers more by including more personalized features on its vehicles. Much of this personalization will take place in dealerships. For example, he says customers may be able to take their cars to the dealer to change the interior color.
"There is so much we can do to really personalize our cars," he says.
Ford's luxury group's future, he says, also is to differentiate through its brands because it is no longer sufficient to differentiate solely through technology.
The Ford executive also says he is fed up with some analysts' notions that the auto industry does not have a future.
"I personally believe the car industry will have a very bright future," he says.
In 1,000 years, the car industry may look different but it will still be here, he says. The same cannot be said for the dot-com industry - the current darling of the investment community. No one will even remember dot-coms in 1,000 years, Mr. Reitzle says.
"I think we are the future of the economy," he says.