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(BENOIT TESSIER/REUTERS)

Financial Times

European tire makers struggle to find traction

Lex is a premium daily commentary service from the Financial Times. It helps readers make better investment decisions by highlighting key emerging risks and opportunities.

Surfers chase the perfect wave. Less happily, Europe’s auto sector is chasing a trough. Hopes that the collapse in demand for new vehicles would bottom out in 2012 have been repeatedly deferred – first to 2013, and now, after grim sales figures for January and February, to the final quarter of this year. Morgan Stanley, for example, thinks that the bottom could be reached in the autumn, paving the way for a slow recovery by 2014-15. That would imply a further 6-per-cent fall in demand for passenger cars in Western Europe in 2013, to around 11 million units. Pre-crisis, annual totals ran at 14 to 15 million.