Global vehicle sales grew rapidly in the year’s first half but tapered off by the third quarter, as year-over-year growth slowed to single digits, pointing toward a fourth quarter with little or no gain.

World Vehicle Sales Outlook 2010
Region 2010 2009 %Change
North America 13,913,751 12,856,985 8.2%
Asia 32,269,485 25,711,861 25.5%
Europe 18,994,128 19,147,531 -0.8%
South America 3,943,214 3,694,873 6.7%
Other 3,614,795 2,949,046 22.6%
World Total 72,735,374 64,360,296 13.0%
Source: * Forecast full-year

Nonetheless, Ward’s is forecasting 2010 world sales of 72.7 million units, up 13% from year-ago’s 64.3 million cars, light trucks and medium- and heavy-duty vehicles.

Much of the growth came early in the year from the Asia/Pacific region, where a phenomenal first-quarter sales surge in China and India helped lift the region’s total annual deliveries by an estimated 25.5%.

At forecast levels, the Asia/Pacific region will account for 44.4% of global sales, up from 39.9% in 2009.

Europe’s vehicle deliveries were pulled forward earlier this year by ongoing scrappage programs, but then tumbled as government incentives ended. The rise-and-fall markets across the region left sales nearly flat for the first three quarters.

World Vehicle Production Outlook 2010
Region 2010 2009 %Change
North America 12,129,957 8,760,965 38.5%
Asia 40,540,030 31,320,709 29.4%
Europe 20,040,821 17,389,825 15.2%
South America 4,868,152 4,252,892 14.5%
World Production 77,578,961 61,724,391 25.7%
Source: * Forecast full-year

The Ward’s 2010 forecast sees sales slipping about 1% below 2009 levels, dropping Europe’s share of worldwide sales from 29.8% to 26.1%.

South America’s largest market of Brazil, similar to China and India, experienced explosive growth in the first quarter, but has been unable to sustain double-digit increases in the second half. However, the auto industry still is predicting a record sales year, with 3.4 million deliveries, 8.2% ahead of 2009.

Argentina, up 39.8%, experienced its own expansion beginning in the second quarter, contributing to an expected 6.7% rise in South America sales for the year and a 5% share of the world vehicle market.

North America sales are forecast to finish at 13.9 million units, a modest 8.2% increase over 2009 that stands as one of the worst years in the industry’s history. The result leaves the region with an expected 19.1% share of global sales, down from year ago’s 20.0%.

Worldwide 2010 production should reach 77.6 million units, up more than 25% over 2009 and outpacing sales by 7%. This is in contrast to the prior year, when global OEMs slowed output and reduced inventories in the midst of widespread recession.

Asia/Pacific, Europe and South America all have built more vehicles than have been sold so far this year, while North America sales have outpaced regional production by nearly 2 million units.