Has Europe Reached Its Car Peak?

Declining populations and economic malaise in many European countries are just some of the forces contributing to what most agree seems like a lasting decline in the continent's demand for automobiles.

January 18, 2013, 9:00 AM PST

By Erica Gutiérrez


“Europeans are driving less and are likely to continue doing so,” observes Matthew Curtin. Stuart Pearson, an analyst at Morgan Stanley attributes this to “a wide range of forces–from high fuel costs, increased online shopping and social interaction, to more congested roads in increasingly crowded European cities.” Furthermore, “ownership, demographic and vehicle-age trends [suggest] that a recovery in Europe could remain elusive for the rest of this decade,” reports Curtin.

“Europe resembles Japan in the early 90s,' said Hakan Samuelsson, the chief executive of Volvo Cars, where car demand has fallen since 1992. “It’s a phenomenon dubbed as 'peak-car' by analysts at Morgan Stanley,” adds Curtin, who suggests that Europe may have already reached its climax in 2007, when 16 million vehicles were registered. That number has continued to fall since, and is expected to reach around 11 million - back to 1993 record low levels - before stabilizing.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013 in The Wall Street Journal

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