J.D. Power and Associates, one of the few reliable sources on worldwide automotive data, have released their forecast for 2008 auto sales. Executive summary: It won’t be pretty.
All corners of the world will be affected by the slowdown. But not all corners will see equally dismal sales. The mature and saturated markets will be hit hardest by a sudden lack of appetite for new cars. Emerging markets will continue to grow – albeit at a much slower pace. The after-sales business will profit from people holding on to their cars.
The Good: China.
The formerly red-hot Chinese light vehicle market (which includes passenger vehicle and light commercial vehicle segments) is expected to slow in 2008, but it still will grow at very healthy rates. J.D. Power expects Chinese light vehicle sales to come in at 8.9 million units in 2008, which would be an increase of 9.7 % compared to 2007. Still, the number will be much tamer than the 24.1 % growth achieved in 2007. (The Indian light vehicle market will remain in its infancy. 1.8 million units are expected to change hands in 2008, nearly the same as in 2007. Considering that India has approximately the same population as China, 1.8 million units are pretty much a non-event when measured with a global scale.)
The Bad: Europe.
Light-vehicle sales in Europe as a whole are projected to fall to 21.3 million units in 2008. This would be a rather tame 3.1 % decline compared to 2007. For Western Europe, where markets are more saturated, J.D. Power forecasts a decline to 15.6 million units sold, which would be 7.5 % less than 2007. Eastern Europe will still see growth. Eastern European unit sales are anticipated to be 5.8 million in 2008, a surprising (giving the circumstances) jump of 11.3 % compared to 2007. However, growth in Eastern Europe is also forecasted to slow significantly.
The Downright Ugly: U.S.
J.D. Power and Associates forecasts total U.S. new light-vehicle sales to plummet to 13.6 million units in 2008, a 16 % decline from the 16.1 million units sold in 2007. For 2009, J.D. Power and Associates sees even lower numbers: 13.2 units. J.D. Power says the numbers may be 200,000 lower, depending on how the 4th quarter of 2008 may play out.
J.D. Power doesn’t think that the market will recover anytime soon. Jeff Schuster, executive director of automotive forecasting for J.D. Power and Associates, said that “any truly pronounced recovery appears to be more than 18 months away.” And it may get worse before it gets better: “While the global automotive industry is clearly experiencing a slowdown in 2008, the global market in 2009 may experience an outright collapse,” Schuster said. “While mature markets are being impacted more severely than emerging markets, no country or region is completely immune to the turmoil.”
No crisis for after-sales.
Like other analysts before, J.D. Power observed that “approximately two-thirds of the decline in retail sales can be attributed to consumers delaying vehicle purchases.” People are keeping their vehicles longer. Keeping their vehicles longer means more parts and labor are needed to keep the vehicles running. Buying a new car or even a used car can be delayed. But if the brakes fail, it’s either buy new ones or walk. One of the few recession proof segments in this collapsing economy appear to be parts and services.
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