Detroit's Still Chasing Foreign Automakers In Domestic Crossover Production

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The shift from passenger cars to trucks has yet to pay off.

At least two of Detroit's Big Three automakers are moving away from passenger cars and towards larger vehicles. But as far as crossovers are concerned, they're all losing ground to foreign automakers – even in domestic production.

According to analysts cited by Bloomberg, GM, Ford, and Fiat Chrysler could see their portion of crossover production in the United States slip from 61 percent in 2005 to just 35 percent by 2023. The slip in passenger cars is even more dramatic. Michigan analyst Alan Baum projects the Big Three will account for just 16 percent of North American output by 2023, down from 53 percent in 2005.

Where that leaves Detroit is pickup trucks and body-on-frame sport-utility vehicles – an area where it still holds a significant lead over foreign competitors. In five years, GM, Ford, and FCA are still expected to produce 86 percent of trucks made in America.

"The Asians and the Europeans are taking over crossovers in the U.S. by adding new models and more manufacturing capacity. They did the same thing in cars 10 or 20 years ago," said Baum. "In Detroit, this puts even more pressure on trucks." Of course that's just for domestic production, not accounting for vehicles manufactured abroad and imported into the United States. But automakers have been increasingly depending on domestic production.

And with the Trump Administration threatening heavy import duties on new cars and trucks, domestic production could become even more important.

"The U.S. has been the epicenter for the crossover market for 20 years," CarLab consultant Eric Noble told Bloomberg, "and the fact that our domestic automakers aren't any better at it than the foreign brands is damning." Detroit's automakers are working on introducing new crossovers, like the Chevy Blazer, Ford Bronco, and Jeep Wagoneer. If they prove as successful as their manufacturers hope, the trend could reverse. But it'll likely take more than a few new models to turn their fortunes around.

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