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Emerging markets will account for half of all global car sales by 2012, according to global Insight’s North American automotive research director, George Magliano.

Speaking at the NADA (National Automobile Dealers Association) in San Francisco, he said that the mix of global auto sales would shift from 75% in mature markets like the United States and Canada and 25% in emerging markets – chiefly China, South America, and Eastern Europe – to a 50-50 split between mature and emerging markets.

Magliano said that the US is already in a mild recession and that there is a one in three chance of a global recession. Europe has been hit by the US mortgage crisis and Japan has had a stagnant economy for some time, while China and other developing countries are resistant to these economic problems.

By 2012 Magliano is forecasting that vehicle manufacturers will produce 82m vehicles, 16m more than in 2006. The major growth will come from the so-called BRIC countries, Brazil, Russia, India, and China.