There are few reliable forecasts for 2009. The depth of the economic downturn is difficult to gauge. But even in todays uncertain environment, executives must make assumptions so they can plan ahead. Heres what Automotive News Europe expects will happen in 2009.
1. Slow sales. Sales will fall across Europe. Western Europe will see sales drop to 12 million from 13.6 million in 2008. But individual brands will post gains. Some, like Volkswagen and Audi, because of new products. Others such as Skoda, Dacia and Chevrolet, because they offer the low-cost cars that todays market demands.
2. Quiet factories. As a result of the sales slowdown, capacity use will drop in many of Europes car plants. There will be more temporary production shutdowns, in particular during the summer.
3. Hit by the BRICs. Brazil, Russia, India and China, the so-called BRIC countries, will post growth, but not enough to offset the declines in Europe and North America.
4. Consolidation. Sergio Marchionne predicts that in two years there will only be five or six big volume carmakers. Expect the first mergers of major auto companies to take place in the course of the year.
5. Changes at the top. None of Europes top carmaker bosses is likely to be deposed. However, the expected consolidation will mean that some will go or change their roles.
6. Suppliers suffer. When car companies cut production, partsmakers suffer. But the industrys reliance on suppliers will, if anything, increase. There will be some bankruptcies and some further consolidation in the supplier sector in 2009. But many will survive.
7. Detroit downturn. There will be only two American car companies left by the end of 2009. Ford has the best odds to remain independent.
8. Porsche wins battle, VW wins war. Sports car maker Porsche will assume full control of Europes largest car group. But a prediction by Credit Suisse analyst Arndt Ellinghorst, will start to come true: VW -- and VW executives -- will dominate in the new merged entity.
9. Premium guys take a hit. There will be a major downward shift in the mix of models offered by Mercedes, BMW and Audi. Private consumers and fleet buyers will look for smaller, more fuel-efficient and cheaper models.
10. The shows must go on. Look for less extravagance at the big auto shows this year. Carmakers will scale back their presence in Geneva and Frankfurt. But the shows will continue to be the premier product forums for the industry.