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Polk: Global Light Vehicle Sales to Decline 15% in 2009

May 21, 2009

Global light vehicle sales will decline 14.7 percent from 2008 levels to 55.2 million units in 2009, according to R.L. Polk & Co. Polk's latest market study, released May 14, also predicts that the automotive market won't emerge from the worldwide recession until 2012, later than previously forecast, due to worsening economic conditions. 

Long-term growth for the global automotive market will come from the "emerging" markets of Latin America; Central and Eastern Europe; Africa and the fast-growing Asia-Pacific/Middle Eastern region (excluding the developed market of Japan). Beginning in 2015, Polk expects more light vehicles will be sold in the aggregated emerging markets than in the combined "saturated" markets of the United States, Canada, Western Europe and Japan. 

"We see China and India as key drivers of growth, as vehicles become attainable for an increasing percentage of these countries' huge consumer populations," said Uwe Biastoch, director of global forecasting at Polk. "Like Tata Motors with the recent launch of the low-cost Nano in India, manufacturers that innovate and produce market-specific products will be successful in emerging markets," said Biastoch. 

These emerging markets will come out of the current crisis three years earlier than the saturated regions. Light vehicle sales in the emerging markets will top 2007 levels in 2011; this won't happen until 2014 in the saturated regions. 

The U.S. has been hard-hit by the economic crisis, and new vehicle sales have dropped from a high of almost 17.5 million in 2000 to 13.2 million in 2008, with a further decline to 10 million projected for 2009. Polk predicts that 2009 will mark the end of U.S. market share dominance for the domestic automakers: Asian manufacturers will capture 47 percent of U.S. market share, compared to 44 percent for American automakers and 9 percent for European brands. 

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