Researchers at Business Monitor International (BMI) say that the outlook for Croatia's car market is 'highly challenging' and they are forecasting a market decline of 22% in 2009.

In its quarterly report reviewing prospects for the country's auto industry and market, BMI notes that Croatia's economy faces contraction this year and that private consumption has weakened 'dramatically'.

BMI also says that the early part of the year has been characterised by large year-on-year monthly declines to the car market, including a drop of 41% in February to just 8,394 units.

BMI maintains that the economic recessions means cars sales in Croatia will fall 22% this year before a modest recovery takes hold in 2010.

However, BMI says that over the long-term, car sales growth should rebound strongly from the low base this year and next and notes that car ownership in Croatia is considerably short of saturation levels.

There is no domestic production of autos in Croatia, although there is a small parts industry.

Although Ford had been considering opening an assembly facility BMI says that prospects of a significant car-building industry emerging in the country in the foreseeable future are remote.

Low incomes in Croatia mean that most of the new cars sold are from the compact and lower-middle segments with retail prices at EUR11,500-17,000. Opel leads the car market this year with a share of around 13%.

See also: Croatia Autos Report 2009 (download)

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