PARIS -- Things are not going to be easy for Jean-Pierre Laurent, who took over Renaults troubled Spanish subsidiary January 1.
Spain is the European market hardest hit by the global economic slowdown.
New-car sales dropped 28.1 percent to just 1.16 million units last year, well below the 1.61 million units sold in 2007, according to ANFAC, the Spanish carmakers association.
Manufacturing has been similarly affected, with carmakers stopping production at their Spanish factories for multiple weeks at the end of last year. Temporary shutdowns will continue this year.
Production in Spains export-oriented manufacturing sector was down by more than 10 percent in 2008. With equity analysts expecting European markets to drop by an additional 10 percent to 20 percent this year, the outlook is even worse for Spains 18 automotive plants in 2009.
Laurent, 54, took over responsibility for Renaults Spanish sales and production activities from Juan Antonio Fernandez de Sevilla, who retired after 26 years with the French carmaker.
He knows turning around performance in Spain will be difficult.
When the automotive sector suffers, all of Spain suffers, so this is a very depressed market today, Laurent told Automotive News Europe in a phone interview from Madrid.
The French carmaker projects the Spanish market will contract by an additional 15 percent to 20 percent in 2009, which would drop it below the 1 million unit mark for the first time since the mid-1990s.
New-car orders during the first 10 days of January were down 40 percent when compared with the same period of 2008, Laurent said.
It is going to be a very difficult year for every brand, Laurent said.
Renault is among those hardest hit by any slowdown in Spain, which contributes 10-15 percent of its European sales.
The sales decline pushed Renault down to the No. 5 position on the list of sales leaders in Spain.
In 2008, Spain was Renaults third-biggest market, behind France and Germany.
This was despite the 30.8 percent drop in sales, to 101,299 cars.