China is expected to make the largest contribution to global sales growth for new vehicles, according to Polk, with an anticipated 16 percent increase over 2011. Polk analysts anticipate much of this growth to occur outside of the large metropolitan cities of Shanghai and Beijing.
The U.S. market will experience single digit growth, primarily due to the relatively strong year for sales in 2011, and the effects of the weak economy that will continue to impact new vehicle demand through most of 2012. Light vehicle sales are expected to grow at a moderate pace, with a 7.3 percent increase in the region this year, to 13.7 million vehicles, according to Polk analysts, but they do not expect the U.S. market to achieve pre-recession levels of greater than 16 million vehicles per year until 2015.
The luxury segment in the U.S. market in 2012 is expected to be the fastest growing segment, with more than 14 percent growth, according to Polk.
"More affluent buyers are returning to the market for new vehicles, after three years of spending reductions," said Anthony Pratt, director of forecasting for the Americas at Polk. "The luxury segment also offers a wide variety of product options for consumers across all segments, ranging from small cars to SUVs," he said.
Leasing penetration will continue to be higher in the luxury segment in the U.S. and will continue to lift transactions in all segments, as elevated residual values reduce the monthly lease payments, attracting consumers to showrooms who often make purchase decisions on the monthly payments that fit their budget. Leasing penetration has increased to pre-crisis levels for 2011 (through October) of 41.5 percent for the luxury segment and 17.1 percent for the overall U.S. industry. This trend will likely continue through 2012 as automakers will attempt to win back consumers with promotions touting attractive monthly payments.
European sales are expected to be flat or down slightly, to just over 19 million units, according to Polk. Austerity plans will prevent governments in Europe from boosting 2012 sales through scrappage programs and other incentives offered in previous years.
Growth in the other BRIC countries will outpace many mature markets over the next few years. As an example, Polk expects Brazil to surpass Germany as 2011 sales results are finalized, and new vehicle sales in India are expected to surpass those sold in Germany in 2014. Sales growth in Russia will likely be flat in 2012, however, Polk anticipates sales in Russia to outpace Germany by the year 2015.
Brands Gain, Maintain Market Share in the U.S.
Polk predicts Toyota and Honda, respectively, will realize the greatest amount of market share growth in 2012 as they begin to win back some lost share from their 2011 inventory shortages following natural disasters in Japan and Thailand. However, they will likely struggle to regain all of their lost share as they will experience strong competition from other automakers offering vehicles equipped with more fuel-efficient options and increased infotainment features.
Volkswagen will continue to win U.S. market share in 2012, according to Polk, approaching the three percent range, as the Beetle launch will build on its successful Passat and Jetta models available in the market.
Although Hyundai and Kia sales volumes continue to increase year over year, Polk expects their market share growth to be flat in 2012, as the companies face increased competition in all segments.
Traditional domestic manufacturers, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, will continue to grow in 2012 as the industry continues to recover. Refreshed products and new product introductions will help them to compete in various segments.
Polk's global forecasting team analyzes market trends by region and serves as a comprehensive resource for manufacturers, dealers and suppliers to the light and commercial vehicle markets. Polk's complete light vehicle sales forecast (including passenger cars, light trucks and light commercial vehicles) through 2016 is as follows: