The Incredible Surge for Automakers

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Andrew: Hey Fools, Andrew Tonner here. I'm joined today by Brendan Byrnes, our Industrials Analyst for Fool.com.

Brendan, let's take a look at one of the most popular sectors of all the industrials; automakers. 2012 was an interesting year for most of them. What would you say your year in review, across the sector, was?

Brendan: Yeah, it turned out to be a great year, overall, for automakers; 14.5 million light vehicles sold in 2012, an improvement of over 10% over the previous year, so certainly good news there, and up huge; its best year since 2007, before the financial crisis.

So many big automakers got in trouble there, but still well below what we saw in 2000, which was around 17 million vehicles sold, so I still think there is a strong runway going into 2013. I expect 2013 sales to be more than 15.5 million, so definitely a strong runway there, and good news.

Looking back, Ford about 5% increase year to date 2012 versus 2011, GM up about 4%, but look at the Japanese automakers; those numbers are going to be huge. Toyota, 26%, Honda 24% -- that's because those companies got decimated in 2011 by the earthquake and tsunami, so definitely coming back strong.

If you're a shareholder of GM and Ford, that's definitely something you need to watch, as they both lost market share overall to the big Japanese automakers, but at the same time they remain cheap stocks. Ford and GM remain cheap, and there remain trends that I think they can capitalize on, going into 2013.

As I mentioned, I think we can hit 15.5-plus million vehicles sold, overall. How do you do that? In the U.S., one of the main reasons is pent-up demand. The average age of the automobile being 11 years old -- that's the oldest ever. Sooner or later you have to upgrade your clunker, right?

Especially as gas prices have come down a little bit lately, but they're still overall pretty expensive and new vehicles are much more fuel efficient. That's definitely good news, there.

When we're looking at the overall space, there's a lot of room for growth in Asia. Europe continues to be a problem for both Ford and GM. I like Ford's plan here. They have a very ambitious plan, closing down three plants, also introducing 15 new models over the next few years, revamping their marketing campaign.

I think there's still a reason to be bullish on automakers. A lot of tailwinds going into 2013, despite the recent run-up at the end of 2012 by these stocks. Definitely keep an eye on them. They're not as screaming buy as they were toward the middle of 2012 when these valuations were so depressed, but I still think for a long-term investor there's a ton of great opportunity here.

I think it starts with Ford, and GM is my second best bet, based purely on valuation.

Andrew: Yeah, definitely cheap stocks. Like you referenced, probably not the steals they were at one point last year, but still very attractive today.

Brendan, thanks so much for your insight. Thanks a lot for watching. Fool on!


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