While most auto markets plunged last year, auto sales in Europe were underpinned by incentive programs that lasted longer and were more generous than the U.S. “cash-for-clunkers” boost. This year, while most markets are recovering from their 2009 lows, western Europe is flagging.
Last month, as the western European market contracted, and U.S. sales continued their achingly slow recovery, Citi Research estimates that the two regions had an identical selling rate of 12.2 million cars and light trucks.
For the year as a whole, Citi Research estimates western Europe will have the larger market, with sales totaling between 12.8 million and 12.9 million vehicles, while U.S. auto sales are expected to reach only 11.5 million.
But next year, it predicts the U.S. market may expand to as much as 13.1 million vehicles, while sales in western Europe are expected to slip to 12.7 million. “In Europe, the current ‘double dip’ in car sales in the post-incentive hangover is liable to continue in our view through the first half of 2011,” Citi’s London-based analyst John Lawson wrote in a report.
Autodata Inc. confirmed on Nov. 3 that the U.S. selling rate hit a year-high of 12.26 million cars and light trucks. The Brussels-based European carmakers’ association ACEA hasn’t issued October sales, but forecaster IHS Global Insight estimates sales in western Europe plunged 18 percent in October.