'82 turnaround for US autos?

After the close of one of the toughest years ever for the American auto industry, General Motors president F. James McDonald predicts that 1982 stands ''an excellent chance'' of being a ''turnaround year'' for new car and truck sales, Monitor correspondent Sara Terry writes.

Mr. McDonald told reporters at the Los Angeles Auto Show Tuesday that although variables such as inflation, high interest rates, and the public's perception of the Reagan administration's performance on the economy make it impossible to predict exactly when the upswing will occur, it may come as early as the second quarter of the year.

He explained that his prediction is based on several factors, including the fact that despite high inflation, the average American's real disposable income has continued to rise. In addition, McDonald said, GM is positioned with a whole new line of cars in production - unlike 1981, when its production capability was down as factories were overhauled for new assembly lines to build smaller, front-wheel-drive cars.

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