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GENEVA MOTOR SHOW - The 83rd Salon International de l’Auto et Accessoires opens its doors today (5 March) under a dark cloud, with no sign of a speedy rebound in sight for the troubled European market.
The show will be reserved for the media on the first two days, but on Thursday the floodgates will open to the public.
The Salon, which is considered one of the most important car shows of the year, will again be heavily marked by the crisis in Europe after an already catastrophic 2012.
Last year, only 12 million new cars were sold in the European Union - the lowest number since 1995.
And 2013 didn’t start off any better.
In February, new car registrations in Spain slipped 9.8 percent, in France they fell 12.1 percent and in Italy they plunged 17.4 percent.
Even Germany, Western Europe's leading car market which withstood the crisis in 2012, has not been spared, seeing new car sales shrink 10.5 percent last month.
Matthias Wissmann, head of the German auto federation VDA, said in Geneva on Monday: “The first months of the year have been marked by weak demand in Western Europe.”
Volkswagen head of sales Christian Klingler agreed, insisting “the European market is still just as complicated.”
Toyota also voiced pessimism when it came to sales in Europe, which most analysts think will fall between three and five percent this year.
ADAPTING TO THE NEW REALITY
Several carmakers are also undergoing far-reaching restructurings of their European activities in a bid to cut back over-capacity and adapt to the new reality on the crisis-hit continent.
PSA Peugeot Citroen, for instance, has had a very bumpy ride and suffered a €5 billion (R59 billion) loss last year. In July it announced the closure of its historic plant in Aulnay, near Paris.
US carmakers Ford and General Motors, who lost billions of dollars in Europe in 2012, also decided to shut down plants, with Ford closing sites in Belgium and Britain and GM closing an Opel plant in Germany.
Volkswagen is doing better thanks to its heavy footprint outside Europe with its 12 brands, allowing it to rake in a record net profit in 2012 of €22 billion (R260 billion).
And on Monday, its new Golf won “Car of the Year” at a pre-show event in Geneva.
Once the show gets underway, it will be the luxury market that will be most prominently on display, with for instance Lamborghini's new multi-million dollar Veneno supercar among the headturners expected to draw big crowds. - AFP