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by Tim Beissmann

The European automotive industry faces a painful 2012 according to leading car company executives, with slowed growth and even a recession among the early predictions.

Peugeot CEO Philippe Varin admitted to reporters at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show that his company would cut workers and review of the future of its Aulnay plant beyond 2014 due to competitiveness problems.

“Europe is facing a period of weak growth or even recession,” Mr Varin said.

Chrysler Group CEO Sergio Marchionne revealed Fiat was likely to delay the introduction of a number of new models globally because of the worsening credit crisis and poor consumer confidence in Europe.

“The Italian market hasn’t been so weak since the 1980s,” Mr Marchionne said.

London-based Automotive analyst IHS predicts global vehicle sales will increase from around 53.9 million in 2011 to 57.9 million in 2012. The majority of the growth is tipped to come from the luxury car segment.

Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche told reporters he was predicting a “slowdown of growth rather than a recession”, and insisted orders for its vehicles had so far been unaffected. Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz, along with fellow Germans BMW and Volkswagen’s Audi are all currently running at full production capacity. (For an in-depth look, read CarAdvice’s editorial about the state of the big three German luxury manufacturers.)

Volvo CEO Stefan Jacoby said his data showed no indication of a decline in the market, but said Volvo was much better equipped for a finance-driven slowdown than it was before the GFC.

“If it comes we are more prepared than in 2008, with respect to our financial strength and flexibility in our plants,” Mr Jacoby said.




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