Southfield, Michigan – Worldwide sales of new vehicles are expected to rise 6.7 per cent in 2012 over 2011’s figures, to a total of 77.7 million vehicles, according to market intelligence firm Polk. Analysts believe the global economy will weather the current European debt crisis and consumers will return to showrooms this year.

China is expected to make the largest contribution to global sales growth, with an anticipated 16 per cent increase over 2011. Much of this growth will occur outside of the large metropolitan cities of Shanghai and Beijing.

The U.S. market will experience single-digit growth, primarily due to a relatively strong sales year in 2011 and the continuing effects of the weak economy. Light-vehicle sales are expected to grow at a moderate 7.3 per cent increase this year to 13.7 million vehicles, but Polk’s analysts do not expect the U.S. to achieve pre-recession levels of more than 16 million vehicles per year until 2015.

The fastest-growing segment in the U.S. in 2012 is expected to be luxury, with more than 14 per cent growth. “More affluent buyers are returning to the market for new vehicles, after three years of spending reductions,” said Anthony Pratt, director of forecasting for the Americas. “The luxury segment also offers a wide variety of product options for consumers across all segments, ranging from small cars to SUVs.”

European sales are expected to be flat or down slightly, to just over 19 million units. Austerity plans will prevent European governments from boosting 2012 sales through scrappage programs and other incentives offered in previous years.

Growth in the other BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) countries will outpace many mature markets over the next few years. Brazil is expected to surpass Germany as 2011 sales results are finalized. By 2014, sales in India are expected to surpass those sold in Germany. Sales growth in Russia is predicted to be flat in 2012, and that country’s sales are not anticipated to outpace Germany’s until 2015.

Polk predicts that Toyota and Honda will realize the greatest amount of market share growth in 2012 as they begin to win back share lost from their inventory shortages following the disasters in Japan and Thailand. However, they will likely struggle to regain all of the share they lost, due to strong competition from other automakers that offer vehicles with more fuel-efficient options and increased infotainment features. Volkswagen will continue to win U.S. market share in 2012 that approaches the 3 per cent range, with the newly-launched Beetle building on the currently available Passat and Jetta models.

Although Hyundai and Kia sales volumes continue to increase year over year, Polk expects their market share growth to be flat in 2012 as the companies face increased competition in all segments. General Motors, Ford and Chrysler will continue to grow in 2012 as the industry continues to recover and the companies introduce new or refreshed products that help them compete in various segments.

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