The Wall Street Journal (sorry, subscription required) noted earlier this week that February car sales in India increased 22% over last year. China’s car sales increased by 2.7% in January and February. This contrasts starkly with car sales in the U.S., which declined by 41%, and Europe, which declined 18% (only rising in Germany).
To be sure, there are some quirks behind these numbers: India’s sales last February were especially low because of anticipated changes in excise taxes, and this February have been spurred by increased credit availability. China’s sales were similarly influenced by a cut in the purchase tax (Germany’s sales increase was also driven by a policy change, an incentive to scrap old cars) . Still, the WSJ article forecasts an 8% increase in China car sales for all of 2009, and notes that it is now the largest car market in the world, having surpassed light vehicle sales in the U.S. in January.
The woes of the big three American car companies are splashed across the newspapers almost every day, and they are only alive because of massive loans from the U.S. government. European car manufacturers are doing layoffs, production and salary freezes , and seeking loans from their governments. Meanwhile, Tata Motors announces it is opening a new plant in Gujarat, to start manufacturing the Nano.
Could this pattern be any clearer? While all economies have stumbled and fallen in this global recession, it certainly looks like India and China are going to be picking themselves up and brushing off the dirt sooner than the U.S. and Europe.