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Europe casts shadow over improving U.S. auto market

Dec 22, 2011 Randy Mosteller

The American automotive industry is facing a tremendous amount of uncertainty in light of the growing European debt crisis. Despite the threat, conditions have actually begun to show marked improvements, driven in large part by captive finance operations. The Financial Times reports that the U.S. auto market is expected to sell some 16.4 million units next year, down considerably from the years leading up to the recession, but 30 percent higher than its low-point in 2009. What's more, Bloomberg recently reported that 2011 auto sales are on track to reach the highest level in three years. But then there's Europe - not to mention waning demand in China. Aside from an imminent banking and debt crisis, Europe is also facing pockets of decay in its considerable auto industry. "The real problem remains in Europe, where demand has eroded from 16.8 million units in 2007 to a likely 14.4 million in 2011," the news source. "It could slide another 5 percent in 2012, says IHS. Rising price competition is one result. That is a sign of an industry suffering from chronic overcapacity. But don't be fooled by the forecasts."