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The World's Biggest Auto Markets

Slide Show >>China now buys more cars than any other country in the world except for the U.S. According to a new report from Automotive News, sales of light vehicles in China are projected to reach more than 5.9 million by the end of 2006, nudging Japan from the No. 2 spot. The U.S., which should see more than 16.7 million sales by year's end, will remain far and away the largest market.

But things are expected to begin to shift. By 2010, R.L. Polk Marketing Systems in Essen, Germany, which provides data to Automotive News, expects that in China new registrations of light vehicle will climb 26% to more than 7.9 million. By 2015, General Motors (GM) estimates that number will almost double to 14 million, including commercial vehicles.

Also by 2010, while the U.S. will continue to dominate, its growth will have plateaued at just under 17 million. Since 2002, U.S. sales have failed to rise above 17 million. According to R.L. Polk the last time U.S. sales passed 17 million was in 2001. In 2001, 17.379 million light vehicles were registered, down from 17.482 million in 2000.

SOME CHANGES. Japan, which has held the No. 2 spot for years, has never cracked the 6 million new registrations mark in a single year. R.L. Polk Marketing Systems projects that new registrations in that country will only grow by 4% to 5.852 million by 2010.

In Europe, traditional economic strongholds such as Germany, Britain, and France will also see only modest gains. (Some countries, such as Italy, will actually decline and Spain, currently the eighth largest market will drop to tenth.)

In addition to China, other markets that are expected to see dramatic increases are Russia, which is expected to increase 21% from 2006 to 2010; India; and Mexico. India, which saw only 767,000 new car registrations in 2000, will climb to 1.650 million in 2010. Mexico, where 852,000 new cars were registered in 2000, will attain 1.316 million by the end of the decade.

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