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WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. — Pushed by economic improvements in some areas and gains in consumer confidence, global auto sales for full-year 2010 will likely rise 4 percent from last year and steadily move back toward where they were before a sluggish 2009, according to J.D. Power and Associates.

However, some markets may still be challenged, though emerging markets — like Brazil, China and India — are likely to continue their stable upward movement.

Specifically, global light-vehicle sale for 2010 are projected at 66.9 million units, up 4 percent year-over-year, according to J.D. Power.

The global seasonally adjusted annual rate though the first two months of the year stood at 68.7 million units, up approximately 21.4 percent from the pace through February 2009.

"Worldwide sales are off to a strong start in 2010, largely due to economic recovery in various parts of the world and improving consumer confidence," stated John Humphrey, senior vice president of global automotive operations at J.D. Power.

"Despite this optimistic outlook, there are a few regions in particular where government stimuli pulled sales ahead in 2009 that will continue to experience difficulty this year," he added.

J.D. Power then looked at how several markets throughout the world are expected to perform, beginning with North America.

North America

Within this market, J.D. Power projects that 2010 light vehicle sales in the U.S. (including retail and fleet) will reach 11.7 million vehicles, compared with 11.5 million vehicles last year.

Overall, North America's sales are likely to hit 14.1 million units for the year, a 12-percent gain from 2009.

J.D. Power expects Canadian sales will be 1.53 million, up 4.8 percent year-over-year. Meanwhile, it is predicted that Mexico's light-vehicle sales will climb from 751,000 vehicles in 2009 to 882,000 units this year.


Next up was Europe, which is likely to struggle a bit in some areas, according to J.D. Power. Western Europe's sales — challenged by not having the scrappage incentives that caused pull-ahead sales in 2009 — are only projected to reach 13.7 million units, off 8 percent from a year ago.

J.D. Power said Germany and Italy should have the heaviest drop-offs.

On the other side of the continent, Eastern Europe's car market is likely to enjoy "the beginnings of a slow recovery." Specifically, light vehicle sales are expected to be 3.2 million units, a gain of 1 percent from 2009.

One country in particular, Russia, has scrappage incentives that J.D. Power projects will play a role in pushing a 10-percent sales gain, as expected 2010 sales for the nation are 1.6 million units.

Asia Pacific

In this region, sales will likely be a mixed bag, with some markets showing stability and others seeing "varying" increases, according to J.D. Power.

Japan, for example, is projected to hit 5 million units sold, up 11 percent year-over-year, even though — interestingly enough — the country has yet to see the fallout from Toyota recalls.

Australian vehicle sales are predicted to climb 2 percent, and Korean auto sales are expected to fall 0.5 percent.

As far as Asia's emerging markets, the year seems to be more promising, shared J.D. Power. China, India and ASEAN markets are all expected to show year-over-year growth for the second straight time, officials noted.

China, for instance, is projected to see an 8-percent increase with 14 million units sold this year, and even this is a "conservative estimate" based on the pace at which sales are currently moving, according to J.D. Power.

"There is a possibility that vehicle sales in China could continue to outperform expectations, depending on government actions to control inflation," officials explained.

South America

Moving on, J.D. Power predicts South America will have light-vehicle sales of 4.6 million units this year, a gain of 15 percent from 2009.

Brazil is expected to be at the front of the sales surge, with 3.4 million vehicle sales projected for 2010, a 12-percent year-over-year increase.

"While the pace of recovery and growth is largely uneven across the globe, the automotive market is clearly moving in the right direction," Humphrey stated. "The importance of the emerging markets will only grow as global sales accelerate toward the previous peak of 70 million units achieved in 2007."

Alternative Powertrain Sales

Continuing on, J.D. Power also offered a glimpse into the market for various alternative powertrain vehicle sales throughout the world.

Specifically, there are expectations for 840,000 hybrid-electric vehicles to be sold this year, up 16 percent year-over-year.

The U.S. had been the leader among single markets for hybrids for quite some time, but Japan moved ahead last year. The strong sales were lifted by the performances of the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight, and government incentives — which spurred sales for hybrids and other fuel-efficient rides — also led to Japan's stellar hybrid market.

Next, battery-electric vehicles were soft in 2009 (just 10,000 units sold globally) and are only expected to climb to 20,000 vehicles in 2010. That said, J.D. Power predicts the segment's sales will be close to 300,000 by 2015.

BEV market share is also projected to climb from less than 0.1 percent in 2009 to 0.3 percent by 2015.

China is predicted to dominate the BEV market, as half of the segment's global sales will likely occur in this nation. J.D. Power explained that some markets may not take on BEV sales as quickly. The company suggested that consumers are worried about high initial costs, limited driving range and not having enough charging stations and battery replacement systems.

"Due to many factors, including government support, domestic lithium ion battery suppliers and the willingness and ability to create the infrastructure needed to support widespread BEV use, China carries the greatest potential for BEVs over the mid-term forecast," stated Jeff Schuster, executive director of global forecasting at J.D. Power.

"Battery-electric vehicles have generated tremendous consumer interest and have been promoted prominently," he added. "However, actual global sales of BEVs may take much longer than many expect to reach a critical mass since the price premium is extremely high, compared to an equivalent gasoline-powered vehicle, and plug-in hybrids are a less expensive alternative with a much greater driving range."