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2013 Ushers in Massive Wave of Product Launches

“A good harbinger” for consumers and automakers alike.

by on May.21, 2012

The new 2013 Nissan Altima - shown rolling off the assembly line - is one in a record wave of new product offerings to come.

With products ranging from the next-generation Chevrolet Silverado pickup to an all-new Infiniti electric vehicle, the U.S. auto industry will see a potentially record flood of new products roll into dealer showrooms by 2016.

According to the new “Car Wars” study by Merrill Lynch the assault will hit its peak in the 2014 and 2015 model-years when manufacturers are planning to introduce 105 new cars, trucks and crossovers.

The fast and furious roll-out will challenge makers that can’t keep up the pace, with Merrill Lynch analyst John Murphy forecasting that Ford, General Motors and Toyota likely will emerge the winners of the battle, the three picking up significant new market share.

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Somewhat surprisingly, Murphy predicted that Korea’s two makers, Hyundai and Kia, will lose momentum, reversing recent record share gains.

The product assault “is a good harbinger for the industry at large,” said Murphy in a media conference call.

The Car Wars face-off begins with the 2013 model-year bringing to market a vast array of new models, including an array of next-generation midsize sedans such as the Nissan Altima, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord and Chevrolet Malibu.

The industry is putting more focus on passenger cars than it has in years, clearly reflecting a fuel price-led shift in consumer demand, according to Murphy and other analysts.

The market will see more green machines than ever before during the period covered by the Car Wars report.  Nissan’s Infiniti brand will, for example, introduce its own sporty alternative to the Nissan Leaf.  Ford is rolling out the 2013 Focus Electric and will have both a hybrid and plug-in version of its new C-Max “people-movers,” and Toyota will introduce both a battery-electric version of the RAV4-EV and the new 2013 plug-in version of the Prius.

Alternative power options will also include new diesels, Mazda planning to expand its new SkyActiv range with a diesel engine and Chevrolet adding an oil-burner for its Cruze model.

But trucks and crossovers are expected to remain a significant force in the market.  General Motors has an array of both traditional, body-on-frame and car-based, truck-like offerings, such as the next-generation Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups, the redesigned Buick Enclave and updated versions of the Chevy Equinox and GMC Terrain.

GM’s assault reflects the maker’s effort to rebuild after its 2009 bankruptcy, a number of products having been delayed until 2013 and beyond because of the company’s financial crisis.

Ford also is shifting its product development operations into high gear, with models like the C-Max, next-generation Escape and an all-new version of the F-Series pickup, long the nation’s best-selling product line due for the 2015 model-year.

The 2013 Escape underscores a shift from traditional truck-based utility vehicles to more car-like designs.  Escape’s migration to a crossover platform comes a year after Ford’s Explorer took the same route for 2012.  Nissan also is migrating to a car-based “architecture” with the 2013 Pathfinder.

The Japanese maker is, in fact, looking to the next three years to help it shake up the established automotive order.  In particular, Nissan believes it has a very strong chance of toppling long-time midsize king-of-the-hill Toyota Camry and replacing it with the 2013 Altima.

(For a first close look at the 2013 Nissan Altima, Click Here.)

But Toyota isn’t ready to cede anything.  If anything, the Japanese giant is upping its game and plans to roll out more than a dozen new products over the next few years, starting with the all-new 2013 Avalon.  The expressively-shaped full-size sedan is notably serving as the warning shot from Toyota’s styling studios that the maker will no longer serve up plain-vanilla designs.

The Merrill Lynch Car Wars report indicates that it will be product, product, product that shapes the pecking order of the U.S. market through at least 2016.  It forecasts GM will gain 0.5 percentage points of market share, rising to 18.3%, Ford jumping 0.8 points to 15.3%, and Toyota, having already recovered 1.4 points after its supply-constrained plunge in 2011, will pick up another 0.3 points to reach 14.6%.

As to the other Detroit maker, analyst Murphy notes Chrysler will see a bit of a product fall-off after the rush of new products that reached its showrooms the last two years.  That’s not to say the maker will suffer a drought; it will still bring out a replacement for the current 200, add a new 100 model, expand its line-up of Fiat-badged offerings and replace the Ram pickups for 2017.

The surprise loser, if the Merrill Lynch forecast proves accurate, will be Hyundai and Kia.  The two makers have had a steady march up the sales charts over the last five years – tied to a wave of new products such as the strong-selling Hyundai Elantra and Kia Optima sedans.  But the Car Wars report anticipates their product pipelines won’t be quite so full through 2016 and that should translate into a “volatile” situation, according to Murphy, the makers likely each losing about 0.5 points of share.

The analyst predicts the same could be true for European makers and the smaller Japanese brands.

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