Car output in Europe fell 13% in 2009 to 13.4m units, its lowest level since 1996, according to Brussels-based ACEA, the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association.
The association has predicted that 2010 will be just as challenging as the economy still hasn’t recovered sufficiently.
It expects passenger car sales to decline, especially in countries where scrappage schemes have ended, while commercial vehicle registrations were expected to be flat.
“Given the dimension and length of the economic downturn, pressure on automotive employment is mounting,” it said, adding the European Union car sector now employed 2.2m people and a further 9.8m relied on the industry for their jobs.
Total vehicle production fell 17.3% from 2008 levels to 15.2m units. Truck production fell 64% while passenger car output was down 13%.
ACEA noted that the situation was improving with passenger car production up 22.8% in the fourth quarter of 2009, compared with a low in the last quarter of 2008.
Compared with the pre-crisis level of the fourth quarter of 2007, car production dropped 7.6% in the last three months of 2009.
Germany remained the largest vehicle producer in the 27-country EU, despite a 13.8% decrease to 5.2m units.
France fell to third place with a 20.2% drop while Spain became the second-largest manufacturing country in 2009, as output fell 14.6% to 2.2m vehicles.
Britain, where output fell 34%, again ranked fourth, with just over 1m units.
Italy fell to seventh place behind the Czech Republic and Poland.