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Automakers plan for fading truck's future

The SUV has plenty of room and makes Henry feel like she's keeping her 2-year-old son, Anthony, safe. But at $76 per fill-up, the Rainier won't be right for long.

"I probably will go to a car next, especially if things stay the way they are now," said Henry, 25, of Beverly Hills, loading groceries at a Meijer in Southfield.

While concerns such as Henry's are among the factors in a steep decline in truck and SUV sales, what remains of the market when it bottoms out will be critically important for Detroit's automakers.

"Someone who has to haul the big trailer or the big boat is going to need some kind of a work vehicle," said Joseph Phillippi of AutoTrends Consulting Inc. "There are always going to be people who need something like that."

So as the Detroit Three restructure again -- retooling and closing plants and laying off workers -- they must protect their truck leadership and profits estimated at $8,000 per large vehicle.

"This is an important question because it has much to do with your manufacturing plants," said George Pipas, chief sales analyst for Ford Motor Co. "How many plants, how many shifts of production does the industry want to put behind the large truck and SUV categories?"
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