Mary Barra is upbeat on US market prospects

Mary Barra is upbeat on US market prospects

General Motors CEO Mary Barra has said the company expects light vehicle sales in the US to reach 16.5m-17m units in 2015.

The last time industry sales reached 17m units was in 2001. The industry delivered 16.5m light vehicles last year.

Barra was upbeat on industry prospects in the context of a relatively buoyant US economy and also sees falling oil prices as a positive in the US.

"The US economy and vehicle sales have been rebounding since 2009, and we believe there is still plenty of room for the auto industry to grow," Barra said. "The strength of the labour market, better job security and the recovery in home prices have consumers feeling pretty good about the future, so we expect people will continue to replace their older cars and trucks. The recent sharp drop in fuel prices and rising incomes should only add to their confidence.

"The most important change we see coming is the return of younger and first-time buyers to the market."

Strong real GDP growth is expected to create new job opportunities in 2015 - as many as 200,000 new jobs per month, GM said.

The US National Association of Colleges and Employers, which said in its Job Outlook 2015 report that employers plan to hire 8.3% more new college graduates from the Class of 2015 for their US operations than they did from the Class of 2014.

"A growing jobs market and new vehicles that exceed expectations for fuel economy and high technology are the best ways to rekindle the love affair America's youth have historically had with cars and trucks," Barra said.

Barra also said Chevrolet is particularly well positioned to attract new customers in 2015, since it has re-entered the mid-size pickup segment with the Colorado and launched seven small cars and crossovers in the last four years, including the Spark, Sonic and Cruze.

The emerging small-SUV segment (Chevrolet's product in the segment is the Chevrolet Trax) in the US is forecast to grow more than 80% in the next few years, according to GM.  

Barra also said she still expects GM Europe to return to profitability in 2016.