TURIN – Fiat S.p.A. CEO Sergio Marchionne believes new-car sales in western Europe will fall by 15 percent this year and will not return to pre-crisis levels until 2014.
Marchionne said 2010 sales will be 25 percent less than the pre-crisis year of 2007 when 14.8 million new cars were sold in the region, which includes the major markets of Germany, Italy, France, the UK and Spain.
Marchionne said sales volume this year will return "to levels unseen since 1994” during the last severe auto industry downturn. Speaking at Fiat's annual shareholders meeting on Friday, Marchionne added that it will be four years before volume reaches the 2007 level.
Last year, about 13.63 million new cars were sold in western Europe, according to ACEA, the European automakers association. Marchionne's prediction of a 15 percent decline would mean 2010 sales falling by 2.04 million units to 11.59 million.
Although none are as pessimistic as Marchionne, other auto industry leaders believe that European car sales will fall steeply this year as government-funded scrappage schemes launched in 2009 run out of cash.
Renault sees volume falling by 10 percent as long as European economies show a strong recovery from the economic crisis in the final part of the year.
“If that recovery does not happen, as many now fear, our prediction should be revised downward,” Renault Chief Operating Officer Patrick Pelata said at the Geneva auto show earlier this month.
Andrea Formica, Toyota Europe's head of marketing and sales, also sees a 10 percent decline, but said it could be worse because the order intake seen so far this year in Germany and Italy “was worryingly low.”
Jean-Marc Gales, PSA/Peugeot-Citroen's head of brands, said he expected sales to fall by 9 percent.
Car sales in Germany, Europe's biggest economy, are likely to fall to 2.7 milllion to 2.8 million this year from a record 3.8 million last year, many experts believe, basing their predictions on order inflow from January and February.
Volume in Italy could decline by 400,000 units from 2.16 million cars sold in 2009. Sales in the UK and France are seen as remaining at last year's level while Spain is expected to recover this year from a steep downturn in 2009.