Executives bemoaning the worsening outlook for Europe's car market hope the no-frills small cars on display at the Paris auto show that began on Thursday will lure customers in austerity-hit markets, while premium limousines will woo Chinese buyers.
Even carmakers who had until recently been thriving, poaching market share from ailing competitors, are feeling the pinch as tight budgets, high unemployment and fears about the future keep customers away.
Volkswagen AG sales chief Christian Klingler said there would likely be no significant rebound in the European market over the next two years. "We're bracing for more negative surprises in 2013."
VW chief executive Martin Winterkorn also sounded a warning note on Europe and said that 2013 would be "a very challenging year, especially in Europe."
PSA Peugeot Citroen CEO Philippe Varin said he did not see a recovery in the European market next year and warned that the previously robust German market was now starting to weaken too.
Fiat SpA chief executive Sergio Marchionne renewed his call for a Europe-wide approach to the problem of excess production capacity that is piling pressure on carmakers' profitability as sales stagnate. "We have a collective responsibility in the industry to carry out a progressive restructuring at European level."