Thursday, October 9, 2008

UPDATE 1-Global auto market may 'collapse' in '09-J.D.Power

(Adds more details from report, forecasts on Asia and Europe)

DETROIT, Oct 9 (Reuters) - The global auto market may experience an "outright collapse" in 2009 amid growing concerns around availability of credit and general economic stress, an influential industry tracking firm said on Thursday.

J.D. Power and Associates said in a closely-watched report that credit market restructuring, fewer leasing options and declining vehicle equity are all putting added pressure on the U.S. auto market in 2009.

The agency also said auto sales in Europe, China and India are expected to slow "dramatically" next year.

The outlook represents the most dire warning yet on the auto industry in the wake of the financial turmoil that has rocked consumer confidence and virtually shut the door for many consumers to finance vehicle purchases.

"While the global automotive industry is clearly experiencing a slowdown in 2008, the global market in 2009 may experience an outright collapse," said Jeff Schuster, executive director of automotive forecasting for J.D. Power.

"While mature markets are being impacted more severely than emerging markets, no country or region is completely immune to the turmoil," Schuster said.

It forecast U.S. light vehicle sales would fall to 13.2 million units in 2009 after likely settling at 13.6 million units this year, adding that a pronounced recovery is more than 18 months away. U.S. auto sales totaled 16.15 million units last year.

"Buyers are both voluntarily and involuntarily exiting the U.S. new-vehicle market," Schuster said.

The financial turmoil has dealt an additional blow to the U.S. market, which has already been bumping along at a 15-year low amid high gas prices and a housing slump.

Slowing within China's automotive market is also projected to intensify in the fourth quarter, and will likely lead to a downward revision for 2009, J.D. Power said.

It forecast auto sales in China would grow 9.7 percent this year, less than one-half of the 24.1 percent growth achieved in 2007.

Sales in Europe are expected to fall 3.1 percent in 2008, led by a 7.5 percent decline in Western Europe, it said. (Reporting by Soyoung Kim; Editing by Brian Moss)

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