Dudenhoeffer says Western Europe still won't have fully recovered by 2020

BOCHUM --The slump in European car sales is likely to last a bit longer than many people expect or hope, car expert Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer said Tuesday.

"Europe will come back very slowly," Dudenhoeffer told reporters attending the CAR Symposium here. "Sales in 2013 will continue to be weakened by the crisis in Europe."

Volvo Cars CEO Hakan Samuelsson, one of the speakers at this year's conference, agreed. "We don't think there will be a positive tendency in Europe this year," he said. Samuelsson added that's one of the reasons Volvo has reduced capacity and laid off staf.

Dudenhoeffer said the economic problems of countries such as France, Italy, Spain and Greece "haven't been solved at all" and "the debt problem is still there." The economic situation in Europe needs to be stabilized before the auto industry can pull out of its slump, he added.

Global car sales, which rose to 66.7 million units in 2012 from 62.8 million in 2011 will continue to increase, Dudenhoeffer projected. But those increases mostly reflect buoyancy in markets such as China and the US. In Western Europe, by contrast, sales are forecast to drop to a low of 11.4 million units in 2013 from 11.8 million in 2012.

Dudenhoeffer forecasts that Western European unit sales will start recovering in 2014 and will climb to 13.7 million by 2020. That total, however, is still below a 2007 peak of 14.8 million. "Even by 2020, the market still won't have reached its old size again," the auto expert said.

European premium carmakers, which include Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, Range Rover and Volvo, will continue to gain global market share in coming years. Dudenhoeffer predicts that, by 2020, they will have a 9.6 pc share of the global car market, up from 8.4 pc in 2012 and 7.6 pc in 2005.

"Product innovations, premium small cars, premium SUVs and the new markets in Asia and Russia will be the biggest growth drivers," Dudenhoeffer said.

The annual CAR Symposium, which is held for the 13th time in 2013, is hosted by Dudenhoeffer, who heads the Center Automotive Research (CAR) of Duisburg-Essen University in western Germany.