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Global Car Sales Expected To Soar

TRAVERSE CITY, MI -- (WWJ) As car and truck sales slow a bit here in the U.S., they are heating up internationally.

INTERVIEW: WWJ AutoBeat Reporter Jeff Gilbert talks with analyst Jeff Schuster of LMC Automotive.

The forecasting firm LMC Automotive eased back on its U.S. sales forecast for the year, from 14.5 to 14.3 million units. But their chief forecaster Jeff Schuster expects the global auto industry to see a record 80 million sales this year.

"The global sales level, even here in 2012 with all the risks we're seeing here in Europe, we're still in positive territory," said Schuster. "We're looking at 2012 to be up about five percent from where it was in 2011."

Much of the growth is in emerging markets, and the competition is expected to increase. Toyota is now again leading GM in global sales, with Volkswagen coming on strong.

All of those carmakers, Schuster says, face new competition from Chinese companies in emerging markets.

"They are starting to have a stronger presence in South America, in Eastern Europe."

Longer term, the crystal balls of analysts speaking at the Management Briefing Seminars are a bit more cloudy. Ford Chief Economist Ellen Hughes-Cromwick says they see sales returning to a 15-17 million range by mid decade.

There are signs of slow economic recovery, she says, including a slight improvement in housing.

"That is a gift that will start giving to the U.S. economy as we get into the 2013, 14, 15 time frame."

There are a lot of variables, including the unemployment rate, the recession in Europe, and whether Congress will act on the U.S. debt after the election. All of those issues weigh on consumer confidence.

"We have to think of confidence as a wild card," says Hughes-Cromwick. "If it falls in on itself, strap in, put your seat belt on, and take appropriate action."

Connect with Jeff Gilbert
Twitter: @jefferygilbert

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