The new car market in Europe will never again reach the 2007 peak of almost 16 million units, says the senior manager of PwC Autofacts.
That's despite growth in European vehicle production that PwC expects to reach 19m units in 2018, which would be higher than the 2007 peak of 18.8m.
Michael Gartside, senior manager of the PwC Autofacts strategy group, told the Automotive Logistics Europe conference that vehicle assembly plant capacity in the European Union would improve to above 80% - the point at which plants are generally considered to be profitable - by 2016 and would approach pre-recession levels of 85% by 2017.
Overall plant utilisation is expected to improve due to factory closures by PSA Peugeot Citroen (Aulnay), Ford (Genk) and GM (Bochum), models being localised and the new vehicle market recovering, plus new models being designated for European plants.
Gartwise expects Europe's new car registrations to rise steadily over the coming years to around 14m units in 2016 and 15m by 2019.
But he added: “We don’t believe that 16m will ever be achieved again in the European market."
With a stagnating and ageing population, increased cost of vehicle ownership, longer replacement cycles and falling interest in car ownership among young consumers, Gartside suggested that Europe is already facing “peak demand”.