Where was your last car made? Chances are the maker of the car in your driveway was headquartered in either Michigan or Japan. But what about the next time you go car shopping? Did you know there will be another player on the market? More than that, you won’t have the same selection you once had. That’s because some famous auto brands will disappear from auto lots in the next few months.
General Motors (GM) has its back against the wall. According to Forbes, sales plummeted 30.8% in March (month-over-month) for the iconic Pontiac brand. Year-to-date sales are down 43.5%. On Monday, GM announced plans to discontinue Pontiac by 2010. In fact, America’s largest auto manufacturer is set to lose 34 nameplates in 2010, 29% fewer than it sold in 2008. Even one-time industry poster child for good business practices Saturn is set to close in 2012.
But GM is not alone. Chrysler will also cease production of its PT Cruiser, Chrysler Aspen, and Dodge Durango. Altogether, auto sales are down 18.3% from last year. To say that American auto manufacturers are hurting would be an understatement. “Hemorrhaging cash” or “at the brink” would be closer to the truth. But for every loser in the market, there is usually a winner. Who will gain as the Big-3 collapse under their own weight?
One word: Tata.
Tata Motors Ltd. (TTM), part of one of the largest manufacturing entities on the planet, will soon release the world’s cheapest automobile in the United States. Debuting at $2000, the Tata Nano is set for a July 2009 delivery. Tata already has 1 million reservations for their mini-car. If they could deliver, it would easily become the best-selling car this year. Keep in mind, only 13.2 million cars were sold in the nation last year. With this sort of demand, Tata will make waves when their vehicles start shipping.
What’s so special about the Tata Nano? For one, it’s cheap. Cash-strapped consumers don’t want to fork over $10-12K for a new economy vehicle. All they need is reliable transportation to and from work. In addition, the Nano’s rear engine and small tire frame gets an amazing 61.1 highway miles per gallon, making it one of the most fuel-efficient mass-produced cars in the world. (The 2009 Toyota Prius gets 45 highway miles per gallon.) So the Tata Nano is cheap, green, and efficient – just what the auto buying public wants right now. Good demand is a solid foundation for any business. That’s why we like Tata.
TTM jumped in recent weeks after falling in last year’s melt-down. In January 2008 it was trading near $20. At the beginning of March, it fell to just above $3. Then Tata rebounded fiercely, closing at $7.62 today. We think the uptrend will continue. Detroit’s market share is eroding for many reasons, but it seems almost certain to continue. To get a piece of the next winner, go with TTM.