Will U.S. Car Sales Compensate for Losses in Europe?

european central bankDemand for new cars in Europe declined in January for the fourth year in a row, according to data released on Tuesday. The European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association reported that passenger car registrations — a proxy for sales — declined 8.7 percent year over year, reaching a new historic low of just 885,159 units.

The news is not necessarily unexpected. Executives at major manufactures have indicated that they don’t expect to see a recovery in the European car market at large until the middle of the decade. Even then, hard-hit regions like Spain, Italy, and Greece could continue to suffer. Sales declined 9.6, 17.6, and 34.5 percent in each country, respectively.

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General Motors (NYSE:GM) is expecting European sales to continue declining through 2013. In 2012, the American car manufacturer posted pretax losses of $1.8 billion, bringing total European losses since 1999 to an astonishing $18 billion. The company has pursued a parts-buying and manufacturing partnership with French manufacturer PSA Peugeot Citroen, but progress has been slow so far.

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