FRANKFURT - Emerging markets will drive global car sales in coming years, leaving manufacturers with painful overcapacity problems.
DRI/McGraw-Hill analysts said at a conference here that they expected new car sales to climb to 60 million units a year by 2002 from 51 million units in 1996.
The share of sales to emerging market economies will lead that growth, expanding to 33 percent by 2002 from around 27 percent now. Developed country sales, meanwhile, are expected to stabilize around current levels.
'Almost all the growth is coming from emerging markets, especially in South America and Asia,' said Kurt Brown, analyst at the DRI Automotive Group.
He said strong economic growth and wage increases, low inflation and rapid growth in the size of the middle class in developing economies will fuel demand for cars.
Carmakers, however, plan to meet that expected increase in demand, increasing capacity by 11 million units to 75.6 million units by 2002, providing little relief to already high production.
Philippe Schwarz of the DRI Automotive Group said global capacity utilization will remain at around 76 percent, well below an optimal rate of around 90 percent.
Among European carmakers, Fiat faces 'chronic overcapacity,' Schwarz said, with capacity utilization at the firm forecast to remain below 70 percent through 2002.
Volkswagen AG and Mercedes-Benz, however, were forecast to enjoy capacity utilization rates well above 80 percent.