IHS Global Outlook for Automotive Sales: Continued Momentum in North America, Europe Could Put Industry Within Reach of 90 Million Units in 2016
According to analysts at IHS (NYSE: IHS), 2015 was characterized as a good year in the mature car markets, though it was largely offset by a very poor year for many of the world's emerging markets. The net result is estimated to be a sub-par 1.5 percent growth in global auto sales – the slowest pace of growth since 2010 – once all numbers are reported and analyzed.
However, sales forecasts from IHS Automotive -- part of IHS, Inc. and a leading source of critical information and insight to the global automotive industry -- the outlook for 2016 is likely to be defined by smaller gains, but also less pain than 2015.
Incremental volume growth in the US and Europe is forecast to be solid but less spectacular, while on the other side of the balance sheet, further downside from Russia, South America and some big ASEAN car markets will be less of a drag on global volumes as their impact lessens, having already suffered severe market contractions. This, combined with the new autos targeted stimulus in China, is likely to provide a mild uptick in global sales growth of 2.7 percent, IHS Automotive forecasts.
The 2016 global forecast from IHS calls for sales of 89.8 million units -- just shy of the possibility of a global automotive light vehicle market reaching 90 million units.
The U.S. auto market has been powered by a combination of low interest rates and low gas prices, allowing for market momentum to remain strong. Although interest rates will be a slight headwind, buying conditions will remain positive, allowing the market to continue to grow in 2016 and 2017. IHS estimates there is still strong upside potential as a strengthening US economy and stronger employment takes the US market to 18 million units over the next two years or so.
In West Europe, momentum is also strong, even after the recovery last year being well above expectations. The current forecast for a 2.5 percent to 3 percent uplift in sales in Europe could be even stronger. However, some northern European markets are peaking. In Spain, some payback is expected after eight consecutive scrapping incentives in recent years comes to an end.
"Despite ongoing political and partial economic troubles in the European Union, West Europe, together with the U.S., will build the fundamentals for solid global demand growth in 2016," said Henner Lehne, senior director, global light vehicle forecasting at IHS Automotive.
Optimism for sales activity in the Chinese market has increased dramatically since the government announced measures to reduce the vehicle purchase tax on smaller cars. However, continued stock market volatility may intimidate some buyers. Despite a slowing economy, IHS Automotive now expects light vehicle sales growth to increase 5 to 6 percent in 2016 – enough to add more than 1.3 million units of additional sales.
For several markets in the ASEAN region, 2016 will be a year of transition from the disappointing sales slump in recent years. In the key volume markets of Thailand and Indonesia, a return to growth should begin by the second half of 2016 and build momentum the following year. India's auto market should accelerate as lower energy prices and falling interest rates allow a return to double digit growth for the first time since 2010, according to IHS forecasts.
For Brazil and Russia, 2016 is likely to be a difficult period. Both markets have now been in decline for three consecutive years and 2016 will likely extend that to four years as their economies continue to contract. Brazil's vehicle market is likely to decline 14 percent this year, according to IHS Automotive. In Russia, the market will continue to contract as well, due to the lingering effects of low oil prices and sanctions on the Russian economy and its exchange rate.
Automotive Production Outlook for 2016 Shows Promise
North America and Europe are expected to see production output levels rise again in 2016. In addition, improvement in a number of key emerging markets leads to an estimated 3.2 percent growth globally in 2016.
During 2015, a number of emerging markets had stalled, but with the exception of South America, all major regions are expected to see output grow in 2016.
IHS Automotive forecasts that Europe will grow by 1.7 percent and surpass 21.0 million units of production in 2016 after 3.3 percent growth in 2015. Western Europe is expected to grow by 2.4 percent with support from the ongoing recovery in domestic markets and exports to the buoyant U.S. market.
The pull of China remains, but growth will slow and localization will continue. Eastern Europe remains constrained, but Russia could halt the sharp declines of 2014 and 2015. Central Europe is effectively flat, according to IHS forecasts.
The NAFTA region should demonstrate continued strength in 2016 as the domestic U.S. market reaches new peaks and key investments continue at a number of European and Asian manufacturers. While exports to China and South America might be blunted, opportunities elsewhere are enhanced by new, globally focused products. The outlook is for growth to accelerate and production levels to exceed 18.0 million units.
Japanese output fell during 2015, but 2016 offers more support as exports continue to benefit from exchange rates and as the impact of domestic tax changes made during 2014 and 2015 are worked through the system. In 2016, IHS Automotive expects production growth of 2.3 percent.
In China, recent stimulus is expected to be the most influential development, likely to support a 5.2 percent increase in output in 2016, offsetting the weaker fundamentals. International joint venture operations are expected to grow most strongly during 2016 as they respond to the strength of the SUV sector with new or revised offerings.
ASEAN output declined during 2015, largely due to the slowdown in Indonesia, the region's second biggest market. The ASEAN market should post a modest increase of 1.3 percent in 2016, in part due to Thailand's ability to grow exports despite a slowing domestic market, according to IHS forecasts. Indian growth may have disappointed during 2015, but is still expected to have increased by nearly 6 percent. We expect this to accelerate further in 2016, rising 9.2 percent.
South America saw output fall sharply during 2015, down an estimated 20 percent for the region as a whole and 22 percent in Brazil. Unlike Asia, or even Eastern Europe, there is very little evidence to support anything other than a further decline in output during 2016. Without a dramatic change in conditions, IHS forecasters expect output to fall a further 5 percent in 2016.
About IHS Automotive (www.ihs.com/automotive)
IHS Automotive, part of IHS Inc. (NYSE: IHS), offers clients the most comprehensive content and deepest expertise and insight on the automotive industry available anywhere in the world today. With the 2013 addition of Polk, IHS Automotive now provides expertise and predictive insight across the entire automotive value chain from product inception—across design and production—to the sales and marketing efforts used to maximize potential in the marketplace. No other source provides a more complete picture of the global automotive industry. IHS is the leading source of information, insight and analytics in critical areas that shape today's business landscape. IHS has been in business since 1959 and became a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange in 2005. Headquartered in Englewood, Colorado, USA, IHS is committed to sustainable, profitable growth and employs approximately 8,600 people in 32 countries around the world.
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