Carlos Ghosn: Auto Sales Have Bottomed, Nowhere To Go But Up

November 9, 2009
Nissan President and Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn

Nissan President and Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn

Speaking at a World Economic Forum in New Delhi, Carlos Ghosn -- head of Nissan Motor Company and Renault SA -- had some interesting things to say about the global auto industry. Among the most notable and encouraging items, Ghosn believes that the international sales slump has ended and that the industry is beginning to rebound. He had previously predicted global sales to ring in around 55 million units, but has now upgraded that figure to 60 million. (For reference, 2008 and 2007 each saw sales in the 70-million-unit range.)

Like his rivals at Toyota, Ghosn attributes much of the rebound to sales incentives offered by governments around the world, including America and its Cash-for-Clunkers initiative. Though many of those programs have now ended, leaving sales in danger of falling slack again, Ghosn argues that such threats have been offset by surprising growth in emerging markets like India and China.

In his words, the industry seems to have hit a "plateau" (or more accurately: bottomed out) and is now poised for growth: "It's very likely that we will start to move up in 2010, selectively, with obviously China, India, the Middle East, South America playing an important role. The United States also." However, his forecast isn't without a few cloudy skies: "I'm afraid Europe, Japan are still going to have a tough year in 2010."

Given the most recent sales stats from China, Ghosn's predictions would seem to be on-target. Rao Da, secretary general of the China Passenger Car Association, says that auto sales in China have jumped 34 % so far in 2009, and now stand at 9.66 million units. Expecting a boom in sales toward the end of the calendar year, Da anticipates total vehicle sales for 2009 to top 12 million by the end of this month, marking an increase of 44% over 2008. While that rate of growth in China may be unsustainable in the long term, Da said he would not be surprised to see China's sales growth in 2010 on the order of 25%. Which would, of course, explain why every automaker worth its salt is scrambling to gain a foothold in China and why Chinese investors have been so bullish in their bids for HUMMER and Volvo.

[AutoNews, AutoNews, sub reqd]

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