Expansion into emerging economies will not save the world’s automotive industry giants as key economic indicators signal a slowdown in the Far East.

Analysts are warning that growth figures for the Chinese automotive market will be in the single-digit range by the end of 2008, compared with previous growth of 14% to 24%.


Further evidence came with the announcement that US car manufacturer General Motors was suspending production in South Korea for two weeks in late December.

The news has been interpreted by industry analysts as a sign that the global carmaking crisis is about to hit Asia, a region that companies such as GM and Ford hoped might mitigate declining sales in the US and Europe. US vehicle sales plunged an estimated 31% in October 2008 as the access to credit for consumers and consumer confidence continues to wane.

In November, car sales in Germany, Europe’s biggest car market, dropped by almost 18%.

Automotive industry consultant JD Power and Associates has reduced its forecast for passenger vehicle demand in China. The downward revision, to 5.95 million units for 2008, marks a 4% decrease from a forecast of 6.2 million units at the beginning of the year. The revision marks the first time since 2003 that the growth from the previous year is less than 10%.

Poor consumer confidence and falling stock markets are the main contributing factors to the decline, according to JD Power.

But Nick Reilly, president of Asia-Pacific at GM, said the company is still forecasting 10% growth in China for 2008, and potentially more for 2009. “I don’t see this as the start of a significant decline,” he said.

In China, only 20 people in 1000 own a car, compared with roughly half of the population in the US and EU, which represents a much bigger market potential.