We'll stay out on the open road for this next historical note. 60 years ago today, the first Corvette rolled off the production line. Ever since, they've earned about as many admiring stares as they have speeding tickets, and they're a constant inspiration for screen and song.
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UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Yep, there she is: A real dream buggy. The Corvette: Speed, class, looks.
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THE BEACH BOYS: (Singing) Yeah, my fuel injected Stingray and a 413.
"Simpsons" fans might remember an episode where Homer designs a car. It's a puke-green monstrosity with tail fins, extra-large drink holders and a bubble dome to keep kids separated. Well, they couldn't resist. Some automotive designers built a real car based on Homer's epic design.
There is one basic question that keeps being asked about the U.S. auto industry: Is it on the rebound?
"People ask a lot, is the auto industry back?" says Kristin Dziczek, a director at the Center for Automotive Research. "And it depends on what scale you want to look at."
So if we're looking at scales, let's start with productivity. In this case, how many work hours it takes to build a car. Productivity in U.S. plants is 39 percent higher than it was in 2000. "Productivity has never been this high," Dziczek says.
Strong new-vehicle sales figures are causing industry analysts to revise their forecasts for North American production levels in 2013, with J.D. Power & Associates and LMC Automotive predicting 16 million units will be produced — a mark not hit since 2002.
More than 1,157,000 new vehicles are projected to be sold in May, the third month in a row to top the 1 million level. The growth is being helped by strong demand for full-sized pickups, which represent more than 11 percent of retail sales, according to a news release from J.D. Power.