How bad will 2012 be for the car industry?

Automotive influencers
Just how bad will 2012 be for the UK car industry? And will the UK slip back into recession? They're two big questions on everyone's lips – but getting definitive answers is tough.

The car industry plays a vital part in UK PLC so its fortunes in 2012 are worth following. So what do the people at the very top of the automotive game think the year ahead holds?

Here, Autoblog asks some of the biggest names in the industry for their thoughts.Mark Ovenden
Mark Ovenden
Who? Ford of Britain MD
Cars sold in 2011: 265,894

We tend not to dwell on where the economy is going – over the last few years, volatility has shown just how fruitless this can be. We broadly assume that today's position will carry on for the foreseeable future and with low interest rates helping to balance the lack of consumer confidence and nervousness around large-ticket purchases.

Duncan Aldred Vauxhall MD
Duncan Aldred
Who? Vauxhall MD & chairman
Cars sold in 2011: 234,710

A combination of turmoil in Euroland and weakness in the UK economy could result in a recession. Whether we get there or not is debatable, but it will certainly come close. Against this background, I predict a fragile economy and weak consumer confidence and therefore little growth over the next few years.

Tim Zimmerman
Who? Peugeot UK MD
Cars sold in 2011: 94,989

I'm not an economist and cannot forecast whether the technical requirement to declare a recession, (negative growth), will be experienced in the UK this year. It is clear growth will be limited at best, and whether the economy grows by one per cent or contracts by one per cent does not make a material difference to the average person in the street. The buying choice revolves around confidence.

Jon Williams
Who? Toyota president & MD
Cars sold in 2011: 73,589

Despite the deficit reduction plan implemented by the government, we are still highly influenced by what happens in Europe. Assuming the Euro doesn't collapse, we foresee a stable but still very challenging UK economy this year with a flat, or slightly declining, new car market.

Linda Jackson
Who? Citroen UK MD
Cars sold in 2011: 68,464

Well, I don't have a crystal ball, and I am not in the prediction business – I will leave that to the politicians. But I think it's really important we don't all talk ourselves into recession. Buying a new car is a big commitment and the public have to feel confident. As Roosevelt said in the great depression 'we have nothing to fear but fear itself', so we can learn a lesson from history.

Tony Whitehorn
Who? Hyundai UK president and CEO
Cars sold in 2011: 62,900

If we look at the economic prospects for 2012, it is unlikely that the UK economy will slip back into a recession, however, the year is likely to be characterised by restricted growth. The principal reasons for this will be the government's austerity measures and unemployment, which is expected to reach 10 per cent. I think although it will be a tough year, it will still make modest gains.

Michael Cole
Who? Kia UK MD
Cars sold in 2011: 53,615

I don't think we will slip back into recession, but we need to be realistic about the pace of recovery. The risk of a 'double-dip' remains as long as uncertainty exists in the Euro Zone, and despite several 'summits' there appears to be no credible plan to restore confidence in the currency. So there's a real danger to growth. We need a stable Euro for the UK economy to regain true stability.

Mark Terry
Who? Chevrolet UK MD
Cars sold in 2011: 12,524

The key to getting the economy going again is improving consumer confidence. Customers on the whole are confused. The media message is one of doom and gloom but apart from rising fuel and energy costs, consumer buying power is in many ways better than ever.

Trevor Finn
Who? Pendragon chief executive (UK's biggest dealer group)
Franchises in UK: 245 dealer locations

No. Mainly because the recovery hadn't picked up enough momentum and so doesn't have far to fall back before it will bounce into positive territory again. This time, unlike in 2008, businesses are much better prepared.

What do you think? Let us know your thoughts by posting your comments below.
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