Volkswagen AG, Europe’s biggest carmaker, predicts the worldwide automotive market won’t match pre-recession levels until 2013 at the earliest, Chief Executive Officer Martin Winterkorn said.

Industry sales in 2009 may decline for a second consecutive year to 49 million vehicles, down 17 percent from the pre-crisis peak of 2007, and a recovery next year isn’t guaranteed, Winterkorn said today at a conference in Nuertingen, Germany.

“It’s clear that 2010 will become a very difficult year,” Winterkorn said. “There are growing signs that the worst of the crisis may now be behind us, but it will take time for the markets to recover.”

Worldwide car and light-truck sales amounted to about 59.2 million vehicles in 2007, according to figures from consultant IHS Global Insight. The German market, which is Europe’s biggest with 3.09 million vehicles sold in 2008, may shrink to as low as 2.7 million units in 2010 after state incentives expire, Joachim Schmidt, head of sales at Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz Cars brand, said today in an interview at the Nuertingen conference.

Wolfsburg, Germany-based Volkswagen scaled back a forecast decline for its 2009 vehicle sales by half in August after economic-stimulus programs in the company’s home country and China, its two largest markets, boosted demand. Winterkorn today reiterated a goal of beating Toyota Motor Corp., the world’s biggest automaker, in deliveries and profit margins by 2018.

Long-Term Outlook

Emerging economies such as China and India will be the source of any sales growth in the future, Winterkorn said. The long-term industry outlook is for global sales to exceed 70 million vehicles, with Germany stabilizing at about 3.3 million cars, he said, without specifying a timeframe.

Source: Bloomberg


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