Chrysler U.S. Sales Chief Sees Growth Slowing in 2013

The U.S. auto industry’s three-year streak of at least 10 percent growth probably will end this year, said Reid Bigland, head of sales in the market for Chrysler Group LLC.

“I don’t see it increasing by double digits into 2013,” Bigland said of the U.S. light-vehicle market today at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Credit availability, pent-up demand and an improving U.S. economy are reasons “still in place” to drive a sales increase this year, he said.

Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and Chrysler last year led U.S. vehicle sales to their highest annual total in half a decade as the two Japan-based automakers restored production that was disrupted a year earlier by Japan’s tsunami. Deliveries of cars and light trucks rose 13 percent, the biggest increase since 1984, to 14.5 million.

U.S. auto sales may climb to 15.1 million this year, the average of 18 estimates in a Bloomberg survey of analysts this month. The industry is benefiting from consumers replacing cars and trucks that are the oldest ever on U.S. roads, at almost 11 years on average, according to researchers R.L. Polk & Co. and Experian Automotive.

“The average age of the fleet on U.S. roads of a car is right around 11 years -- they don’t last forever,” said Bigland, 45, who declined to give a specific forecast for 2013 U.S. industry sales. The Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing program has led to “very competitive interest rates,” he said.

Vanity, Sanity

Growth this year probably will be led by Volkswagen AG, Honda and Nissan Motor Co., according to five analysts surveyed by Bloomberg about market share this month. The analysts’ average estimates are for little change to market share for Auburn Hills, Michigan-based Chrysler, General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co.

Of the six largest automakers by sales in the U.S., Chrysler was the only company to surprise industry analysts last year, gaining 0.7 percentage point to 11.4 percent market share. Analysts last year projected on average that the automaker’s share would slip 0.2 percentage point. Chrysler is majority owned by Turin, Italy-based Fiat SpA.

Chrysler won’t “chase” market share this year with incentives or by boosting deliveries to fleet customers, said Bigland, who declined to predict the company’s market share this year.

“Market share is vanity and profitability is sanity,” he said. “We’ve learned from our past and going out and chasing sales at all cost and market share at all cost. We very much want to run and operate in balanced, disciplined and methodical approach.”

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