CSM Worldwide expects European light vehicle sales to grow 2% in 2007, which will move the market beyond 21m units for the first time. The automotive data specialist says that the current year is likely to come in at 20.8m units, up 2.4% over 2005.

In West Europe, demand next year is expected to grow by 1.7%, from 16.6m units to 16.9m units, mainly due to continued positive development in Italy.

Henner Lehne, market analyst for CSM Worldwide European Vehicle Forecasts, told just-auto: “The Italian market is now recovering after a lengthy period of uncertain economic prospects, subdued consumer sentiment and low vehicle sales. Replacement demand is now driving the Italian market up.”

The 2006 slowdown in France and Spain is forecast to stabilise, giving a flat outlook for 2007.

In Germany the market gains of 2006 are forecast to be maintained in 2007 as stronger economic fundamentals and high replacement demand balances the pull-forward of sales this year ahead of a VAT rise.

“We expect to see the German light vehicle market turn out at 3.61m units this year, with a slight increase to 3.66m units in 2007,” Lehne said.

The UK will see another year of negative growth.

“2007 is a critical year for several OEMs in the European market,” said Lehne.

“More than 70 new vehicles will be launched, with the European D and SUV segments both posting growth of about 12%. Most of the new-product launches will take place in these two segments.”

CSM forecasts that the largest OEM in 2007 in Europe will once again be Volkswagen Group with sales volume of about 3.4m vehicles. Within the top ten largest OEMs, Hyundai will post the strongest growth rate with 17%, resulting in a sales volume of 970,000 units. Most of that growth will be generated in the Central and Eastern European markets, CSM says.

In contrast to the US market, CSM forecasts that both Ford and GM are forecast to see sales levels improve in 2007. Ford is expected to grow light vehicle sales by 4% and GM by 2.9%

Dave Leggett