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Car sales will rise in 2015, but the global picture will be mixed (Photo: Emil Frey)

Global car sales are set to rise 2.4 pc to 88.3 million units, despite widespread geopolitical and economic uncertainties in many parts of the world, a leading market forecaster said this week. It would mark the fifth consecutive year of higher unit sales growth.

According to market researchers IHS Automotive, China will lead the global industry higher, despite an expected economic slowdown in the world's  biggest market. IHS forecast that Chinese economic growth would slow to 6.5 pc in 2015 from an expansion of 7.4 pc last year. Light-vehicle sales are set to increase 7 pc to 25.2 million units.

The Chinese market will be helped by increased auto finance mechanisms, a sharp growth in the number of car dealers and continued government programs aimed at scrapping older cars.

IHS said that, when excluding Russia, the European market is likely to grow between 2.5 pc and 3.0 pc in 2015, helped by expectations of an uptick in the European Union economies.

The Russian market, however, remains "a significant wild card" that will have an effect on the rest of Europe as well. The Russian economy is reeling as a result of western sanctions imposed because of Russia's involvement in a military conflict in the Ukraine. Several western carmakers have either halted local production in Russia or are contemplating such a move as a consequence.

IHS expects the North American light-vehicle market to grow 2.5 pc in 2015 to more than 20 million units as consumers are buoyed by positive economic news and relatively easy credit. Low fuel prices provide an additional incentive, IHS said.

"Consumer confidence, credit availability and pent-up demand have played key roles in sustaining auto demand momentum since the Great Recession," IHS forecaster Chris Hopson said in a press statement.