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Automakers rev up new model rollout in U.S.: study

05/16/2012 | 08:14pm US/Eastern

Major automakers will launch new models through 2016 in the United States at a faster pace than in the last two decades, according to a Bank of America Merrill Lynch report.

New models draw more traffic to showrooms, which can boost a company's market share, profit and stock price. Automakers are expanding their lineups to better compete in the growing U.S. auto market after a "lull" during the economic downturn, the annual report said.

"As automakers emerge from the trough in the cycle, more are aiming to spur demand by launching fresh product rather than discounting stale models at the expense of margins," according to the report, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters.

Automakers will unveil 176 new models for the model years 2013 to 2016, or 44 models per year, according to the research note published Wednesday. From 1992 to 2012, 38 new models were launched each year, on average.

About 70 percent of the new models will be crossovers, luxury cars and light trucks, John Murphy, managing director at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, wrote in the report.

General Motors Co (>> General Motors Company) will introduce a slew of new pickup trucks for the 2014 model year, including a new Chevrolet Silverado. Ford Motor Co's (>> Ford Motor Company) overhaul includes a revamped 2013 Fusion mid-size sedan and a 2013 Escape sport-utility vehicle.

Historically, the three U.S. automakers refreshed their lineups every 7-8 years, while their foreign rivals did so every 4-5 years.

This sluggishness cost them market share in the United States and forced them to discount their cars and trucks to spur sales. Those practices, coupled with the U.S. economic recession, pushed GM and Chrysler to file for bankruptcy protection in 2009.

FORD, GM LEAD PACK

But over the next four years, Ford and GM will refresh their lineups faster than other major automakers.

On average, automakers plan to replace 23 percent of their lineups for the 2013 to 2016 model years, well above the historical rate of 16 percent.

Ford, the No. 2 U.S. automaker, will lead the pack with a 26 percent replacement rate, while GM plans to replace a quarter of its lineup through the 2016 model year.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts said Ford could boost its U.S. market share to 16 percent by 2015 on the strength of its new models. GM's launches should help the largest U.S. automaker at least cement its position.

Toyota Motor Corp <TM.N> (>> Toyota Motor Corp.) will boast a rate of 24 percent and Nissan Motor Co (>> Nissan Motor) will replace 23 percent of its lineup by 2016 - in line with the industry's average, according to the report.

Korean upstarts Hyundai Motor Co (>> Hyundai Motor Co) and its partner Kia Motors (>> Kia Motors Corporation) may give back some of their gains in the U.S. market because their 18 percent replacement rate is the lowest of the major automakers.

Chrysler Group LLC, majority owned by Italian automaker Fiat SpA, and Honda Motor Co's, the second-largest Japanese automaker, will both refresh 20 percent of their lineups.

Chrysler, majority owned by Fiat SpA (>> Fiat SpA), is at one of the "toughest points of its product cycle" because the smallest U.S. automaker will not launch its Ram pickup truck until the 2017 model year, the report said.

(Reporting by Deepa Seetharaman; Editing by Richard Chang)

By Deepa Seetharaman

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