Slow Recovery Seen For Light-Vehicle Sales

It’ll be long and bumpy recovery for global light-vehicle sales in the coming year—especially for the North American region—according to research by J.D. Power and Associates. However, emerging markets such as China, India and Brazil are poised for steadier and stronger growth in sales.

"Worldwide sales are off to a strong start in 2010, largely due to economic recovery in various parts of the world and improving consumer confidence," said John Humphrey, senior vice president of global automotive operations at J.D. Power and Associates. "Despite this optimistic outlook, there are a few regions – in particular, those where government stimuli pulled sales ahead in 2009 – that will continue to experience difficulty this year.”

For the U.S., total new light-vehicle sales – which includes both retail and fleet sales – should increase slightly to 11.7 million units in 2010 from 10.4 million units in 2009, J.D. Power reported. For North America as a whole, 2010, sales are projected to come in at 14.1 million units, increasing by 12% from 2009, as Canada and Mexico are expected to make modest gains.

Canada's total sales are expected to increase to 1.53 million units from 1.46 million units in 2009, while the annual forecast for Mexico is projected to reach 882,000 units-an increase from 751,000 units in 2009.

Worldwide, light-vehicle sales are expected to reach 66.9 million units in 2010, a 4% increase from 2009, J.D. Power noted. Through February 2010, the global light-vehicle seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) was 68.7 million, which is a marked improvement from the 56.6 million unit rate for the same period one year ago.

Light-vehicle sales in China are expected to reach 14 million units in 2010, an increase of 8% from 2009. This is a conservative estimate based on the current selling rate, J.D. Power said, as there is a possibility that vehicle sales in China could continue to outperform expectations, depending on government actions to control inflation.

Annual sales in India are expected to increase by 12 percent in 2010, compared with 2009, to 2.3 million units. Overall sales in the ASEAN markets are also expected to increase by 12% in 2010, to 1.8 million units from 1.6 million units in 2009.

By contrast, light-vehicle sales in Western Europe are expected to decline by 8% in 2010 to 13.7 million units, compared with 15 million units the prior year, largely due to cessation of “scrappage” incentives, dubbed “cash for clunkers” in the U.S. Such programs pulled sales ahead into 2009, so Germany and Italy are expected to see the most dramatic declines in sales this year among Western European countries.

"While the pace of recovery and growth is largely uneven across the globe, the automotive market is clearly moving in the right direction," said Humphrey. "The importance of the emerging markets will only grow as global sales accelerate toward the previous peak of 70 million units achieved in 2007."

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