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Old 01-08-2005, 07:45 PM
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Default Detroit Hosts Auto Show Amid Bleak Outlook

By Tom Brown
DETROIT (Reuters) - After another brutal year, Detroit's automakers will put on a brave face as they play host to arch-rivals led by Toyota Motor Corp. at the North American International Auto Show opening on Sunday.

But many analysts say Detroit's Big Three are also getting ready to roll out some disappointing 2005 earnings outlooks, in a sign of more tough times to come in the new year.

The auto show, in a downtown convention center brimming with sheet metal, is all about product. And executives from General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and the Chrysler side of DaimlerChrysler AG will use it to highlight the new or substantially redesigned vehicles they hope to support their market share going forward.

New models from the Big Three are unlikely to generate as much excitement as in previous years, however. To some, barring major surprises, it may even seem like the Motor City is running on empty.

The show kicks off another year of cutthroat competition in the auto industry. Dark storm clouds on the horizon for Detroit include high retiree and health care costs, shrinking market share and a meager profit outlook. Some industry insiders insist these are sapping confidence in the Big Three as perhaps never before.

There are even fears that credit rating agency Standard & Poor's, which rates both GM and Ford one notch above speculative grade, could change its stable outlook on one or both of them to negative this year. That would set the stage for a cut to junk status for the companies, which have a combined $450 billion of debt outstanding.

A cut in the debt rating to junk would make it much harder for GM or Ford to bolster sales by providing car buyers with cheap loans. Ratings fears were highlighted in a recent survey of global investors by BNP Paribas.

Chrysler was the lone bright spot in Detroit last year, picking up a sliver of U.S. market share after the successful launch of the Chrysler 300, its brassy new flagship sedan.

GM and Ford both lost share to foreign rivals, however. With aggressive Asian and European carmakers ramping up output amid a flat U.S. sales outlook, more share erosion seems inevitable.

"I think the Big Three are probably going to lose a little more market share in '05 versus where they were in '04," said David Healy, an auto analyst with Burnham Securities.

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Old 01-28-2009, 10:45 PM
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Default RE: Detroit Hosts Auto Show Amid Bleak Outlook

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