Car makers see US opening up

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN'S four leading luxury and specialist car makers yesterday predicted improved sales this year in the all-important North American market, writes Michael Harrison.

Jaguar, Land-Rover, Rolls- Royce and Lotus all said they were 'cautiously optimistic' about the US market in 1993, based on the sales trend at the end of last year.

Speaking at the North American International Automotive Show in Detroit, Charles Hughes, Land-Rover president, said: 'We are bullish on 1993.' Land-Rover and Range-Rover December sales reached a monthly record of 709.

Howard Mosher, president of Rolls-Royce, said he believed the US had seen the bottom of the recession and that an upswing was starting. Rolls-Royce was 'full of anticipation' for 1993.

There was also bullish news from two of Europe's leading car makers, with Renault of France and BMW of Germany reporting increased sales in 1992.

Renault turned in its best performance for nine years, with worldwide sales of 2 million cars and light commercial vehicles helping it to increase its share of the European car market from 10 to 10.7 per cent.

The increase was mainly due to higher sales in France, where Renault's market share climbed almost three points to 29.6 per cent, although it also performed well in other European markets, notably the UK, where Renault's sales were up 14.5 per cent.

According to German press reports, BMW's world sales climbed 9 per cent last year to just over 600,000, with sales in the US alone rising by more than a fifth to 65,600.

The company is expected to be affected this year by a forecast 10 per cent decline in its domestic market as the German economy slips further into recession.

General Motors' Cadillac division sees only a slight gain in calendar 1993 sales compared to 1992 sales of 214,176, but John Grettenberger, Cadillac general manager said at the Detroit show it appeared that the luxury market in general was improving.