It’s a question I often ponder, as we read the latest headlines about cash-strapped Chrysler or Ford’s financial woes.
But Renault-Nissan chief exec Carlos Ghosn recently told me a stat which painted a rather different picture of an industry in transition.
“Today there are 800 cars per 1,000 inhabitants in the US,” he says.
“In the UK, Japan, France, Canada and Germany ownership is around 600, Russia stands at 200, Brazil at 150 and China and India at around 50.”
In a nutshell, the wily Ghosn neatly explains why you’ve been reading so many headlines about Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) in recent months.
Carmakers are falling over themselves in the rush into these new and expanding markets.
It’s a compelling argument.
The industry might be in turmoil, but Ghosn argues there’s better opportunity than ever before.
It’s just that vast corporations are being forced to change decades-old business models overnight.
East is the new West.
“The growth will come from emerging markets – nothing will stop it,” he vows.
“We see no growth in advanced markets. Even our best forecasts in Europe are for stagnation.”
That’s a pretty bold admission from one of the biggest manufacturers based in Europe and Japan – and it helps explain why Ghosn is working on partnerships with Dongfeng in China and Mahindra in India.
“With their soaring wealth and growth we can’t stop them wanting a mobile society,” says Ghosn.
“Even if they reach just 400-500 cars per 1,000, that’s still enormous growth.”
It’s not all on the other side of the world.
In February, the celebrity CEO inked a deal with Russia’s Avtovaz to raise the group’s annual global production by 900,000.
Who’d bet against further alliances in up-and-coming markets this year?