Improvement Seen In World Auto Market Next Year

By Agence France-Presse The world auto market could stage a modest rebound next year after struggling with the effects of the global economic downturn in 2002, a French research group predicted Dec. 18. BIPE, the research and forecasting unit of the Cetelem Group, a consumer credit subsidiary of French bank BNP-Paribas, foresaw auto sales of 55 million this year, down 1% from 2001 and ahead of a "possible" 1% increase in 2003. Unit director Pierre Bourgeois said the market for new cars held up reasonably well in 2002, when global economic conditions deteriorated, thanks to promotional operations, discounts and reduced-rate financing, notably in the United States. Sales in the 12-nation euro zone are expected to decline 4% this year to 14.33 million units. Sales of new cars in 2003 are projected to come to 14.4 million. Another study released Dec. 18 forecasts a stable European auto market next year after an expected 3.6% decline in 2002. The BIPE research group said "purchasing prospects should be better" in 2003. "Household spending will strengthen a bit while in the second half corporate investment should pick up, leading to a stabilization in sales at 2002 levels," the study concluded. The BIPE predicted sales of 16.09 million autos in the 15-nation European Union plus Switzerland and Norway. While Britain should enjoy a record sales year in 2003, the market is expected to stagnate in Italy. Sales growth should return in France, Spain and Germany. Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2002

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