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GM, Ford, Honda winners in 'Car Wars' study as industry growth continues

General Motors' plans to aggressively refresh its product lineup will pay off in the next four years with strong market share and sales, according to an influential report released Tuesday. Ford, Honda, and FCA are all poised to show similar gains as the auto industry is expected to remain healthy through the rest of the decade.

The Bank of America Merrill Lynch study, called Car Wars, analyzes automakers' future product plans for the next four model years. By 2020, 88 percent of GM's sales will come from newly launched products, which puts it slightly ahead of Ford's 86-percent estimate. Honda (85 percent) and FCA (84 percent) follow. The industry average is 81 percent. Toyota checks in just below the industry average at 79 percent, with Nissan trailing at 76 percent.

Car Wars' premise is: automakers that continually launch new products are in a better position to grow sales and market share, while companies that roll out lightly updated models are vulnerable to shifting consumer tastes.

Though Detroit and Honda grade out well in the study, many major automakers are clumped together, which means large market-share swings are less likely in the coming years. Bank of America Merrill Lynch predicts the industry will top out with 20 million sales in 2018 and then taper off, perhaps as much as 30 percent by 2026.

Not surprisingly, trucks, sport utility vehicles and crossovers will be the key battlefield in the next few years, Car Wars says. FCA will launch a critical salvo in 2018 with a new Ram 1500, followed by new generations of the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra in 2019, and then Ford's F-150 for 2020, according to the study. Bank of America Merrill Lynch analyst John Murphy said the GM trucks could be pulled ahead even earlier to 2018, prompting Ford to respond.

"This focus on crossovers and trucks is a great thing for the industry," Murphy said.

Cars Wars looks at Korean (76 percent replacement rate) and European companies more vaguely (70 percent), but argues their slower product cadence and lineups with fewer trucks puts them in weaker positions than their competitors through 2020.


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