At the Detroit auto show car makers expressed great hopes on good profits in near future and said they may soon begin hiring U.S. factory workers.
General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC are considering hiring plans in expectation that U.S. vehicle demand will begin to recover from last year's anemic levels.
Such moves would help reverse a dramatic decline in U.S. auto manufacturing jobs that accelerated last year as vehicle sales sank to a 47-year low. The hiring plans, however, wouldn't make a dent in the job loss of last year, when the industry cut 126,000 U.S. factory positions.
The companies also must deal with workers who have been laid off but are still receiving some of their pay under union agreements. GM has about 6,700 laid-off workers; Ford and Chrysler haven't released their figures.
Meantime, Toyota Motor Co. said it is looking to increase production in anticipation the U.S. market will grow at least 10% from last year's 10.4 million sales level. The Japanese company, which produced about 63% of its products in North America last year, is considering raising local production but has yet to make any firm determinations, it said.
Even the industry's smaller players may have to stretch to meet improving demand. A senior Subaru executive said Monday a factory in Lafayette, Ind., that builds the Subaru Outback, Legacy, and Tribeca is at maximum output.
The Wall Street Journal has contributed to the report.