The incredible resurrection of the US car maker

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The North American International Auto Show kicked off on Jan. 14 amid one of the best economic climates the industry has enjoyed since the 2008 financial crisis. General Motors (GM) and Chrysler, both of which received government bailouts, are now profitable and expanding.

And the outlook for the industry in 2013 seems promising – that is, if Washington doesn’t drive the country into a ditch with a debt default-driven downturn. Here are five takeaways from the auto show so far:

1)  When the final sales numbers are tallied, 2012 U.S. auto sales are expected to have hit 14.5 million units, the best showing in five years. In 2013, sales are expected to top 15 million, thanks to an improving economy, low interest rates and less stringent credit score restrictions on car loans by banks.

2)  Though US car companies are thriving again, Toyota (TM) recaptured the global sales crown in 2012. And, as Bloomberg reported at the auto show in Detroit, Toyota’s US sales chief predicted that the Camry, the best-selling car in the U.S. for 11 straight years, will keep its lead in 2013 over competing midsize sedans from Honda Motor Co. (7267) and Ford Motor Co. (F).

3)  GM sees a modest improvement in profitability in 2013 as it overhauls about 70% of its product portfolio in the next couple of years, notes the Detroit Free Press. Among the new or upgraded products: the Chevrolet Silverado, the GMC Sierra pickup trucks, the Chevrolet Impala sedan and the Buick Encore crossover.

GM Chart

GM data by YCharts

4)  Chrysler and its majority owner Fiat (FIATY) plan to make Jeep SUVs in China for sale in that market together with Guangzhou Automobile Group. Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Chrysler and Fiat, aims to expand the Jeep brand in China, Russia and Italy.

5)  Finally, what’s an auto show without a lineup of dazzling concept cars? Check out this list of new cars under development compiled by the Associated Press. GM is working on an electric version of its luxury Cadillac brand, while Ford is developing a new F-Series pickup truck called the Atlas.

Photo: NAIAS

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