Mar 04 - Strong car sales figures from Germany, Italy and Spain are adding to the growing optimism over Europe's autos market as industry executives gather for the Geneva motor show. But as Sonia Legg reports, a dip in French demand remains a worry.
The Peugeot 308 may be the car of the year but the French auto industry won't be winning any prizes. Peugeot recently had to secure Chinese investment to avert disaster And now rival Renault has trimmed its growth forecast. But demand in Europe is finally picking up after a six year slump. Overall year-on-year sales jumped 5% - a fifth straight month of gains. Italy and Spain showed the biggest improvements eclipsing the region's largest market. Only France saw a fall. It's all helped create a buoyant mood at the International Motor Show in Geneva. Juergen Stackmann is CEO of Spanish carmaker Seat. (SOUNDBITE) (English): JUERGEN STACKMANN, CEO, SEAT, SAYING (English): "The important thing for SEAT is that the south is recovering. The Spanish industry seems to have more growth than last year and it was already recovering last year. So I would say that we are optimistic for the south of Europe specifically." But emerging markets that kept the industry going during the downturn may be going into reverse. Moody's says Brazil and India will see lower growth this year. Then there's the turmoil in Ukraine, which could have an unpredictable impact on Russia's car market. Redspy automotive consultant Jay Nagley. (SOUNDBITE) (English): JAY NAGLEY, MANAGING DIRECTOR, REDSPY, SAYING (English): "Car manufacturers see Russia as a great long-term bet because it is a giant market and it could grow to be easily the biggest in Europe in theory. And secondly, Russia has put a lot of work into creating an environment in which car manufacturers invest in the country rather than import their cars. So what's happening today could turn Russia into another crisis market just as the crisis in Europe is abating" Even China may not grow as fast as before. Forecasts are for 10% growth rather than the previous year's 13%. That could hurt some of Europe's prestige brands. Ralf Speth is CEO of Jaguar Land Rover. (SOUNDBITE) (English): RALF SPETH, CEO, JAGUAR LAND ROVER, SAYING (English): "We see that Europe is coming back, levelled out; we see that the US is coming back and I see that China is still growing at 7-8 percent GDP growth which means it's a solid growth also for us." Recovery in the US will also help as will the latest in-car technology. Voice controlled apps for drivers just one of the gadgets on show. Apple is also joining forces with Ferrari, Mercedes and Volvo to make its phones compatible with their cars.