When the U.S. auto market hit rock bottom late in 2008 automakers were left cutting corners and laying off workers just to stay in business. For General Motors and Chrysler not even the necessary precautions were enough to keep the companies out of bankruptcy court. The industry is still crawling out of the abyss two years later, but have we seen the last of the pain?

Wards Automotive reports that in 2009 automakers from around the globe cut research and development dollars by 14.3 percent over 2008 spending. That's $12 billion dollars in spending that could potentially keep new products and innovations out of dealer showrooms for months or even years. Ford cut its development spending most according to the report, down 32.9 percent year-over-year. GM is next with cuts of 25 percent, followed by Toyota with a 19.8 percent cut and Honda with a 17.7 percent trimming. Of the automakers ranked among the top 20 R&D spenders world-wide only Volkswagen increased spending in 2009.

So will the R&D cuts of 2009 lead to delayed products and technology? In the short-term, no. Ford, which cut spending the most on a percentage basis, has seen its sales skyrocket while VW's U.S. sales have been weak. But over the long haul we're pretty sure that delays are inevitable, because $12 billion in R&D is no drop in the tech bucket.

[Source: Wards Automotive]

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