PARIS — European carmakers were preparing for a future of labor strife, lower sales and more financial uncertainty as they set out their latest models at the Paris Auto Show on Thursday.
France's Peugeot, Citroen and Renault see the event as a chance to show off their newest cars and prototypes to a hometown crowd, but European executives seemed just as preoccupied with the factories they believe must close to cope with a shrinking market.
The latest data show new passenger car registrations in the European Union dropped 8.9 percent in August, the 11th consecutive monthly decline. And the industry is bloated — there are too many factories to build a dwindling number of cars.
Bailouts from European governments failed to force the carmakers to overhaul their businesses, unlike in the U.S., where 18 car factories were closed after the U.S. government bailed out GM, Chrysler and some suppliers, according to industry analyst Laurent Petizon of Alix Partners. Since 2010, only three European factories have closed.
"The problem is that there hasn't been a profound restructuring," Petizon said.
Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat and Chrysler, has long advocated that the European Union coordinate such decisions and help carmakers restructure — since individual countries tend to fight just to save plants on their home turf.
"I think it would be much more beneficial if this became a European problem as opposed to a national problem," he said. "There's no flag that will fix this."
Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Renault, said the crisis stretches well beyond the auto industry, with ramifications for years to come: "We have to prepare ourselves for a relatively long period of recovery for Europe. It's not only a financial or a currency crisis, Europe is facing a super-problem of competitiveness."