Emerging economies to drive world auto sales to record highs

OTTAWA, July 30, 2008 (AFP) – Auto sales in places like Brazil, India and China are expected to drive world demand to new records despite a sales slump in Europe and the United States, a Canadian bank said Wednesday. Global car sales advanced a mere 1.5 percent in the first half of 2008, undercut by slowing Western economies and record oil prices, Scotiabank said in its Global Auto Report.

But Brazil, Russia, India and China continue to post double-digit gains in automotive sales, it said.

“Despite the year-over-year sales decline in recent months, we expect full-year 2008 volumes to climb to a seventh consecutive annual record, buoyed by ongoing strength in Brazil, Russia, China and India,” said Carlos Gomes, a Scotiabank senior economist and the report’s author.

“In fact, car sales in these nations are expected to surpass US passenger vehicle purchases in 2009,” he said.

According to the report, total car and truck sales volumes fell in both May and June, crippled by record oil prices averaging 130 US dollars per barrel and weakness in the mature markets of Western Europe, Japan and the United States.

In the United States, sales of sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks plunged by nearly