With the autumn European show in full swing for its public days, the press previews had time to settle and we could spawn our first impressions about the overall show.
And, unfortunately, the news are not really good: restraint was this year’s order, as automakers are treated to another cold shower. The fabled European recovery is having a flat tire on the side of the road and there’s no assistance in sight. Executives came in numbers to unveil their latest and greatest, but we could see the usual bluster was shadowed by worries – Russia’s political weakness (and subsequent auto decline) and the shaky rebound in Western markets kept the smiles at bay.
European auto industry is still patching up wounds and sales are about 20% lower than the good times before the 2008 Great Recession and what’s worse is that officials and analysts alike expect those levels to be reached again very hard, if ever.
Volkswagen’s chief Martin Winterkorn said in a Reuters interview that “the market won’t return to (the pre-crisis level) of 15.5 million, I’m sure of it.” Ford of Europe’s chief concured, especially since the automaker has admitted it won’t be on schedule to break even next year. BMW, among the automakers that has enjoyed healthy sales and profit through these dark years, forecasts the market needs at least three more years to return to better results.