LONDON -- Europe will likely return to "almost" pre-coronavirus sales levels in 2022, while China will bounce back more quickly and the U.S. market’s recovery is difficult to predict, said Christian Dahlheim, Volkswagen Group's head of sales.
VW expects a V-shape recovery from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic lasting into 2022. "The question is how steep is that V," Dahlheim told an online conference on Tuesday hosted by the UK auto association SMMT.
Dahlheim did not expand on why the U.S. recovery is difficult to forecast. Analysts have previously said momentum could be halted by a resurgence of coronavirus infections. "There is a threat of demand being impacted by another wave of the pandemic," Cox Automotive economist Jonathan Smoke told Automotive News earlier this month.
"The U.S. is probably the same picture as Europe, but it is probably the most difficult to predict," Dahlheim said.
Factory shutdowns to slow the spread of COVID-19 wiped out about 2.8 million vehicles in scheduled North American light-vehicle production in the first half, according to LMC Automotive. Full-year 2020 output likely will fall by 3.4 million vehicles, or 21 percent, compared with 2019, LMC said
The European automakers association, ACEA, has radically revised downward its 2020 forecast for passenger-car sales after the pandemic led to a collapse in demand. It expects European Union sales to fall by 25 percent to 9.6 million, the sharpest-ever single-year fall for Europe's auto sector.
The forecasting firm LMC Automotive believes global production will be down 20 percent in 2020 to 70 million units with sales down around the same amount at 71 million. LMC has said it could take four years or more for the global market to return to 2019 levels, with an estimated total loss of 37 million units by then.
Dahlheim was most optimistic about China, the VW Group's largest market. "In China the V has been very steep so we expect China to come back to normal levels. It's already [there] right now and will continue to do so," he said.
Dahlheim forecast a longer downturn for South America that could "last well into 2023."
He praised governments across the world for their financial response to the pandemic as citizens and companies became starved of cash. However economic recovery would be hit by the resulting increase in national debt, Dahlheim said.
"So far we see very encouraging signs of demand recovery as the dealers reopen, but we do expect a certain economic impact," he said. "The governments still have pay to back the money."