In a big contrast from Europe, car sales in the US and China continue to rise.
In the states the industry has just enjoyed its best year since 2007 – before the recession.
Sales were up by 13.5 percent for all of last year though the two biggest US manufacturers – General Motors and Ford – lost market share, particularly to Toyota and Honda.
The two largest Japanese carmakers in the US market rebounded from poor showings in 2011 when their inventory was constrained after the Japan earthquake and tsunami.
Auto industry research firm Polk predicts even stronger sales this year in the US, for several reasons.
Tom Libby, their lead analyst for North America said: “We believe the momentum from the end of 2012 will carry over to 2013. A second reason is the continued availability of credit, very, very low interest rates. Another factor is the introduction of several major new products. And, lastly, the improving economy.”
In China, the world’s biggest car market, sales are seen growing this year by five to 10 percent, that is a much slower pace than in the past as the government moves to restrict traffic in bigger cities.
Japanese carmakers will likely continue to struggle.
Their China sales halved last year amid boycotts of Japanese goods from a territorial dispute between Beijing and Tokyo.
“Japanese brands have been handicapped by the turmoil in the relationship between Japan and China. It’s very difficult for one company to see how much this is going to damage the long-term prospects of Japanese companies,” Carlos Ghosn, chief executive of Nissan, told reporters in a year-end briefing in Tokyo.