Global demand for automobiles, light trucks and vans is projected to increase at a slow pace of 1.6 percent per year through 2004 to over 57 million units. The primary causes for this deceleration will be the weak performance of North America (Mexico being an exception) and Western Europe. Less than one percent per year growth is expected in North America through the forecast period while Western Europe will experience a decline in demand. The Latin American, East European, Africa/Mideast and Asia/Pacific regions are all expected to perform extremely well. The economies of the countries in these regions will grow at a brisk pace that is well above the world average, leading to rising personal incomes and a growing base of people who can afford to purchase expensive durable goods such as light vehicles. These and other trends are presented in World Light Vehicles, a new study from The Freedonia Group, Inc., a Cleveland-based industrial market research firm.

The major multinational automakers of North America, Western Europe and Japan will continue to dominate light vehicle production, with home output in these countries accounting for over 75 percent of the world total in 2004. However, new manufacturing capacity will continue to shift to the developing nations. Such countries offer rapidly growing domestic markets, and hold the potential to serve as low cost export beachheads for the multinationals. The advanced nations of North America, Western Europe and Asia/Pacific (e.g, Australia, Japan) exhibit high ownership rates and comprise mature markets for light vehicles.

The best long term growth opportunities for the major automakers will be found in the rapidly industrializing nations of Latin America (e.g., Argentina, Brazil, Chile) and the former centrally planned nations of Eastern Europe. The Asian economies that suffered from a severe economic crisis in 1997-1998 have recovered faster than expected, and also offer good prospects.

Maintaining an established trend, light commercial vehicles (i.e., light trucks, vans and variants such as minivans, sport utility vehicles and multi-purpose vehicles) will enjoy increasing popularity. This is particularly true in the developed nations where such vehicles are viewed as practical alternatives to station wagons and traditional passenger cars by individuals with large families and by those transporting items in large quantities. The commercialization of electric vehicles and the emergence of the so-called "city car" (highly energy-efficient automobiles built from lightweight structural materials and able to run on either electricity or gasoline) will help to sustain the popularity of passenger cars over the long term.

World Light Vehicles (published 05/2000, 273 pages) is available for $4200 from The Freedonia Group, Inc., 767 Beta Drive, Cleveland, OH 44143-2326. For further details, please contact Corinne Gangloff by phone 440.684.9600, fax 646.0484 or e-mail Full text is also available online through commercial database companies and the Web site.

Please attribute information from this news release to The Freedonia Group (Cleveland, OH) and include, if possible, the price of the report. We would also appreciate a copy of the article or publication in which we appear.