As the Geneva motor show opened, industry leaders warned that demand for cars in Europe will stay weak for years as governments drive through austerity measures
Sales have fallen further in recent months and with no signs of recovery, executives from the likes of Ford, Fiat, Daimler, GM and Renault were downbeat, saying they are concentrating on growth areas.
Renault’s Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn said: “So number one is: go where the growth is taking place and contribute to this growth. Number two is that you have to be in a resistance mode in Europe.”
Fiat’s Sergio Marchionne, asked about prospects for a European market recovery, said: “I don’t see any glimmer of hope this year.”
“The sustained nature of the European market slump is becoming pretty clear, and nobody now expects a return to (pre-crisis) levels on any visible horizon,” said Guillaume Faury, strategy chief at France’s PSA Peugeot Citroen.
New car sales in the 27-member European Union dropped 8.2 percent to a 17-year low in 2012 as consumer incomes were squeezed by rising prices, subdued wages and austerity measures.
Hopes of a recovery this year have so far proved misplaced. New car registrations in Germany, previously a bastion of stability, slumped more than 10 percent in February, while those in France and Italy fell by around 12 percent and 17 percent, respectively.
Despite the gloom, the industry is not stinting in Geneva, which is seen as neutral ground for European manufacturers.
There are over 250 exhibitors with over 700,000 tyre-kickers expected to attend, even if fewer of them are buying.