GENEVA - Luxury carmakers say 2010 will not be the year of full recovery for their sector, which was hit by the crisis and did not benefit from government incentives.
Sales of luxury cars, from Rolls Royce to sports cars, fell 13 percent in Western Europe in 2009.
Though wealthy customers are slowly returning to expensive cars, producers attending the 2010 Geneva International Car Show predict another tough year, followed by slow growth. We do not believe 2010 will be the year of recovery. It will be another year to skip before getting to a recovery that in any case won't be robust, said Amedeo Felisa, CEO of Italian sports car maker Ferrari, part of the Fiat Spa group.
It will take Ferrari 4-5 years to get back to where it stood in 2008, the year it sold a record 6,600 cars, Felisa added.
Even rich customers, who kept spending earlier in the crisis, cut back after the fall of Lehman Brothers in Sept 2008.
Infiniti, Nissan's more affordable luxury brand, slowed plans to open 50 locations in Western Europe.
We have definitely been impacted, Jim Wright, Infiniti's vice-president for Europe, said. It probably cost us a year in terms of sales and site opening.
Luxury carmakers must also balance regulatory demands for cleaner cars with the performance their brands are known for.
Ferrari presented its first hybrid at the Geneva car show.
But 2010 will not be as tough as 2009 as non-luxury segments will not be supported by government scrappage incentives aimed at encouraging drivers to replace old cars with new ones.
The relative impact for the luxury car sector in 2010 should be less than in 2009 because the scrapping incentives will drop, Wright said. I think it will still be very tough. Our expectation is flat.
Luxury cars fell from 18.6 percent of the passenger car market in 2008 to 16.1 percent at the end of 2009. Analysts at JP Morgan predict the segment will be up by 5 percent in 2010.
In the depth of the crisis, even people with cash weren't feeling like buying a car, Wright said. From what we can detect, people are starting to feel a ... bit more confident.