By Jeff Gilbert

TRAVERSE CITY — (WWJ) Auto industry leaders are gathering in Traverse City this week, encouraged by stronger than expected car sales, with a more optimistic view of the future.

“The industry is in, really a 180 degree change from where we were a few years ago. I think there’s a lot of optimism really throughout the industry,” said analyst Jeff Schuster, who’s attending this year’s Management Briefing Seminars.

The event—put on by the Center for Auto Research and the University of Michigan, brings auto industry leaders to northern Michigan to discuss where things are headed, and what some of the coming risks and rewards are.

The theme of this year’s conference is “Mobility, Profitability, Sustainability.”

Jay Baron, who’s the CEO of the Center for Auto Research says those ideas are important in an industry that is now dealing with a return to profitability.

“The real question going forward is can we sustain this profitably considering all of the uncertainty.”

The four day conference will look at ways to improve manufacturing, dealing with upcoming fuel economy rules, and sustaining sales momentum.
It will feature top names from most major automakers, foreign and domestics.

North America has become a major profit center for most companies, but Europe remains a work in progress, and emerging markets are always a question mark.

But Baron says car companies have learned a lot of lessons from the tough times, which will help smooth out the auto industry’s legendary boom and bust cycles.

“We are less vulnerable to the cyclicality today than we were five years ago, particularly before the bankruptcies.“

Connect with Jeff Gilbert
Twitter: @jefferygilbert


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