Amid all the glam surrounding concepts and new model introductions set to steal the highlights at this year’s Paris Motor Show, industry executives and analysts also see worrying prospects.
While self-driving vehicles, Internet connectivity and generally “smarter” cars will be among key features at the 2014 Mondial de l’Automobile, automakers still struggle to find the fabled recovery to pre-recession levels.
In 2013 sales slumped to a two-decade low after a six-years sales hiatus and the nascent recovery in many of Europe’s countries seems to have lost its power already: German car sales fell, France is dragging its feet, the Italian economy is in recession again and Russia is expecting a massive slide this year.
“The outlook for Europe on the whole is darkening,” said Stefan Bratzel, director of the Center of Automotive Management at the University of Applied Sciences in Bergisch Gladbach, Germany. The slower growth and foreseeable declines “make me wonder if European car demand will manage to be positive for the year as a whole.”
“The question is if the pre-crisis level will ever be reached again,” commented Martin Winterkorn, chief executive officer of Volkswagen AG, Europe’s largest carmaker.
Producers are increasingly turning towards “smart” features and gadgets, as auto sales across Europe rose the least in August, by 1.8%, according to industry data. IHS Automotive even forecasts that fourth-quarter deliveries, usually a prospective period for auto sales, would slide by 0.3%.