Paris Motor Show opens in sputtering market phase | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW | 27.09.2012
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Paris Motor Show opens in sputtering market phase

The Paris Motor Show has opened its doors to privileged guests, ahead of its official weekend opening. Few of the carmakers have much to shout about, especially concerning sales in the key European market.

Automobile producers in Europe might be grateful for the distraction from their balance sheets as they seek to show off their wares in Paris over the next fortnight. Sales figures on the crucial European continent have been dwindling, and there was little optimism to be heard from the "home" manufacturers PSA Peugeot Citroen or Renault.

"I don't think one can hope for an upturn next year," PSA Peugeot Citroen boss Philippe Varin said of the European market, predicting growth of "around zero" or even "slightly negative" for 2013.

Varin forecast an eight-percent decline in the European market this year, admitting his company was taking losses in a bid to keep some throughput.

"We have lost 350 euros ($451) per car in operational costs," Varin said. "Some of our rivals have lost between 500 and 600 euros."

Varin's company announced plans earlier in the year to close a major factory to the north of Paris, part of a plan to offload 8,000 jobs within France.

The new VW Golf VII (DW: Henrik Boehme)

It's not strictly new, but the Golf VII is among the highlights

Carlos Ghosn, the boss of both Renault and Nissan, said his French-based concern's "main priority is our competitiveness in France, which is a question of survival."

Volkswagen sees some pitfalls

The vast Volkswagen group, which has weathered the European storm rather well to date, offered relatively little optimism itself.

Chief Financial Officer Dieter Pötsch said ahead of the show that it was "unclear if all carmakers will survive without governmental help," particularly "carmakers in southern Europe that produce small cars," a statement that might be seen to apply to Volkswagen's Spanish-based Seat subsidiary.

Fiat's CEO Sergio Marchionne told reporters in Paris, however, that his Italian outfit was "not seeking any help, neither from Italy nor from Europe."

Carmakers have managed to maintain tickover with steady sales to the US, and buoyant performance in emerging markets like China and Russia - though these benefits have not offset the slump in the single biggest car market.

The new Golf VII, the latest sporty Jaguar F-Type, the new iteration of the Ford family saloon, the Mondeo, and Opel's all-new city runabout - called the Adam - are some of the more sensible, attainable highlights on display at the show.

Opel's Adam, the smaller successor to the Corsa, could prove crucial for the struggling German arm of General Motors – the company cut working hours for thousands of its German workers earlier in the year, the latest chapter in its protracted flirtation with insolvency.

The Paris Motor Show opens to the general public on Saturday and runs through October 14.

msh/pfd (AFP, AP, dpa)