Car market has a happy 2010


Asian and European car markets ended 2010 on a high, with South Korean automakers predicting rising 2011 sales on US and China growth, while drivers flocked to bag the last scrapping bonuses in France.

Carmakers are increasingly relying on growth in high-profile emerging markets like China, Brazil, Russia and India, while the US market is gradually recovering.

The French car market saw 370,000 orders registered in December, 30 per cent more than the same month last year, carmaker Renault’s commercial director for France, Bernard Cambier, told BFM radio on Monday.

France originally offered a scrapping bonus of 1,000 euros ($1,339), but it was gradually reduced to 500 euros before finally ending on New Year’s Eve.

“It was an absolutely phenomenal month: we had a market of orders for 370,000 cars, which allows us to start the year with a very comfortable order book,” Cambier told BFM.

Renault itself saw orders rise “almost 46 per cent” year-on-year in December, Cambier said.

French car sales or registration figures for December — which lag behind orders as customers register their cars when they are delivered — are due out at 1100 GMT.T.

Spanish, Belgian and Italian car sales figures are also due to be published on Monday. Hyundai Motor Group and its affiliate Kia Motors aim to boost vehicle sales by 10 per cent this year after robust December sales, as the sector shows a gradual recovery, led by China and the United States. Hyundai Motor shares rose 2 per cent on Monday, while shares in Kia Motors jumped 3.75 per cent in a broader market up 0.9 per cent, with Hyundai expected to outperform other car makers this year.

US recovery

In Asia, Hyundai, the world’s No 5 automaker along with Kia, is expected to outperform its peers and gain more market share, driven by new models and its strength in compact cars.

US car sales figures are due out on Tuesday, and December is expected to be the third straight month that US auto sales hold above 12 million vehicles on an annualised basis, capping a year of gradual recovery for the auto sector, analysts said.

Hyundai said on Monday it would target sales of 6.33 million cars in 2011, up 10 per cent from 5.75 million units sold in 2010. The auto giant did not give a breakdown of Hyundai and Kia sales targets.

In 2010, Hyundai Motor sold 3.6 million cars, up 16 per cent, and Kia shipped 2.1 million vehicles, up 40 per cent. “Hyundai Motor Group’s 2011 target appears to be conservative and fully achievable,” Tong Yang Securities analyst Ahn Sang-jun said.

“Sales growth will be slowing because of a high base effect during the 2009 downturn, but Hyundai will still gain a share in the market, which is expected to grow 7 per cent this year led by China and the United States.” The global auto industry rebounded strongly until the first half of 2010 from the industry’s worst ever downturn, but has started losing steam because of the euro zone debt crisis and as the US economy struggles with weak consumer spending.

The market, however, is on track to report healthy growth this year, as the US market gradually recovers and on robust growth from China, now the world’s biggest auto market.