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Global auto sector to remain stable into 2019 despite Trump tariffs

Publication Date: 24 Sep 2018 - By Gaurav Sharma (Associate Editor ReachX) By Gaurav S.

Equity Fundamental Macro Equity Middle East UK EU USA China Asia ex-China Industry Consumer


The outlook for the global automotive manufacturing industry remains stable over the next 12 to 18 months, reflecting expectations for "steady demand" across key regions despite looming challenges and the threat of trade wars, according to new research. 

In recent note for its clients, ratings agency Moody's said sales in China remain a key driver for the sector. The rating agency forecasts global light vehicle sales to grow 1.5% this year and 1.3% in 2019.

"While global auto sales so far this year support our full-year 2018 forecast, we see greater risks emerging that could hurt sales next year, including trade and tariff disputes, rising interest rates and higher fuel prices," said Falk Frey, a Moody's Senior Vice President. 

"Steady auto sales in China are a key driver of our global forecast, but growth will remain far more modest than the double-digit percentage gains seen as recently as 2016. Auto sales in China are expected to grow 2% this year - slowing from 3% in 2017 - and 2.5% in 2019."  

Moody’s said US light vehicles sales will likely cool in the coming months. "Rising interest rates, higher vehicle prices and the threat of tariffs on auto imports are likely to make consumers consider a used car or delay buying a new one."

Although US light vehicle sales are expected to fall by 1.2% in 2018 and 0.6% next year, they will remain strong relative to historical levels and are on track to reach 16.9 million units this year.

Moody's expects Western European sales to grow by 2% in 2018 before slowing to 0.5% in 2019, while Japanese sales growth is forecast to slow to 0.1% this year, before accelerating to 1.3% next year.

Consumer demand for new cars will remain strong in India and will continue to rebound in Brazil and Russia, buoyed by improving macroeconomic fundamentals. Recent profit warnings from leading carmakers suggest that the sector will face greater risk in the year ahead.

The automotive sector is still highly cyclical and the operating environment could deteriorate quite rapidly, due to factors such as new import tariffs or rising commodity costs.

Manufacturers will continue to face mounting environmental policy pressures, which will likely lead to stricter emissions-reducing regulatory targets, rising pressure on margins and cash flows, changing consumer preferences and technological disruptions, the agency concluded.


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