This might be a good time to be a really skilled car designer, or a genuinely talented branding expert, or a particularly innovative engineer.

The reason is that in the near future could many more automotive  brands could be using the same basic platforms.

Indeed, in a few years time there might only be a handful of individual platforms underpinning, say, the 12 million Golf-sized cars built globally every year.

If that happens, because the cost of developing new platforms is getting beyond most mass producers, the need for more individual styling, more niche models and more sharply defined brand values will become of critical importance.

Over the next couple of years the global car industry will consolidate into just six mega-manufacturers, believes Sergio Marchionne, chief executive of Fiat Auto.

Marchionne claims that volume car makers need to be building between five-and-a-half and six million cars each year in order to make money.

He predicted that today's industry would "aggregate" into one giant US maker and other solo giants in Germany and China, with a Franco-Japanese-US conglomerate and one other European player making up the numbers.

Indeed, it's likely that a GM-Chrysler merger will be restarted by the US government next year (if Chrysler doesn't collapse first) a combination that could become the world's largest car maker with annual sales of over 10 million units.

It's tempting to play fantasy merger.

Will we see a Ford-Fiat, potential good for nearly 9 million sales globally?

Or a Renault-Peugeot-Citroen-Nissan?

By the end of 2009 - likely to be an appalling year for the global car industry - we'll have a better idea of who's left standing.