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Renault chief sees Europe auto market slowing in 2015

[SHANGHAI] French carmaker Renault chairman, Carlos Ghosn, said Saturday that he expects slower growth in Europe's auto market next year as it continues to recover from the global economic crisis.

Mr Ghosn, who is also Renault's chief executive officer, said the European market was growing at six per cent so far this year - the best since the 2007 crisis.

"I'm expecting in 2015 this recovery to continue," Mr Ghosn told journalists on the sidelines of an industry forum in China's commercial hub Shanghai.

"I don't see another six per cent increase. I think the increase will probably be more moderate than six per cent... in line with GDP (gross domestic product) growth," he said, but gave no estimates for Renault alone.

Ghosn is also president and chief executive officer of Japan's Nissan Motor Co. through an alliance between the companies.

Many foreign carmakers turned to China, the world's largest auto market, in the wake of the global crisis as their home markets in the United States or Europe collapsed.

China's auto market is now slowing as well, as weaker domestic economic growth and a corruption crackdown take their toll.

But Mr Ghosn said Renault and Nissan were committed to adding production in China.

In late 2013, Renault signed an agreement with Chinese company Dongfeng to set up a joint venture that will start production in 2016 with initial capacity of 150,000 vehicles a year.

Nissan has an existing partnership with state-backed Dongfeng, China's second largest automaker. The two companies last month announced they plan to produce Infiniti luxury cars along with their current offerings.

"We're adding capacity (in China)," Mr Ghosn told business executives after a speech at the China Europe International Business School.

"We don't believe the slowdown in China is going to be long-term because the fundamentals are still pointing towards a very good development of the industry," he said.

China's auto sales rose just 2.5 per cent year-on-year in September, the slowest growth for any month this year, to 1.98 million vehicles.

Last year, auto sales in China reached 21.98 million vehicles.