Global car industry sharpens U.S. focus for 2013

Fri Jan 11, 2013 11:49am EST
 
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By Laurence Frost and Ben Klayman

PARIS/DETROIT (Reuters) - The U.S. car market's rebound may be slowing - but it still looks like the best bet to many of the global industry's top brass as they converge on Detroit for the 2013 auto show.

With Europe in a protracted meltdown and some emerging markets flagging, the United States will increase its share of world auto sales this year even as its economy cools, analysts and executives predicted ahead of Monday's media opening.

American light vehicle sales are expected to rise 4 to 7 percent with prices remaining strong, according to most estimates. That would outpace the 2.6 percent global expansion forecast by consulting firm LMC Automotive.

That is an alluring prospect for European brands fleeing the carnage at home and Japanese automakers hurt by a politically driven consumer backlash in China - where growth and pricing are less predictable for everyone.

"Even if China overtook the U.S. as our biggest-volume market, the U.S. is and will remain our second-most important market after Germany," Porsche CEO Matthias Mueller said.

The Volkswagen-owned (VOWG_p.DE: Quote) sports car maker thinks Europe would be "lucky" to see a recovery before 2015, Mueller said in an interview. "The situation is as critical as ever."

U.S. OUTPERFORMS

The North American International Auto Show, better known as the Detroit auto show, opens to the public on January 19.   Continued...

 
A new Maserati Quattroporte car is displayed on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, in this December 10, 2012 file photo. Fiat's luxury brand, Maserati, will unveil a newly redesigned Quattroporte sedan at the Detroit auto show, which begins on January 13. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard/Files