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Geneva: Plug-in hybrids, small cars with premium features on tap to speed industry recovery

GENEVA – European carmakers are putting their longest ever market slump in the rear view mirror, shifting from survival to revival as they head into the Geneva Auto Show with dozens of car premiers, particularly for small models packed with premium features.

Analysts are projecting growth in new car sales in Europe at anywhere from 2 percent to 4 percent in 2014, the first year of gains since 2007, when sales reached an all-time high of 16 million before getting hit by the financial crisis. But consumer appetite will remain mild, analysts say, until Europe can get economies churning again and unemployment rates down, the only cure to lagging consumer confidence.

“We don’t see a fast recovery,” said Falk Frey, a senior vice president at Moody’s analyst services in Frankfurt. Moody’s forecasts a 2 percent growth in car sales this year to just over 13 million, but underlines that will still be 20 percent, or 3 million units, below the 2007 peak.
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