UPDATE 1-Carmakers eye record 2012 if no 'Lehman-style' crisis -Renault

Fri Oct 21, 2011 4:52am EDT

* Car industry 2011 sales "much higher" than last year -Ghosn

* Renault-Nissan to announce prudent 2012 sales goal in Europe

* China "about to start" supporting electric car

By Daniel Alvarenga

CASCAIS, Portugal, Oct 21 (Reuters) - The chief executive of automakers Renault and Nissan is confident 2012 will be a second successive record sales year for the car industry as long as the sovereign debt crisis does not spiral out of control.

"Unless there is economic 'armageddon' and you see a 'Lehman-style' crisis, a huge surprise, I can tell you that 2012 will be another record year for the car industry no matter what Europe does," said Carlos Ghosn, who heads the two alliance partners.

"2011 is already a record year in sales, no matter what happens for the next two months, it is going to be much higher than 2010," he added.

Still, Ghosn warned the alliance would set cautious sales targets for Europe next year.

"With the latest developments, we are prudent in the announcement we are going to make for 2012 sales in Europe. The highest level of uncertainty is Europe."

For 2011, Renault has said it expects higher sales and revenues than last year, when it sold 2.6 million vehicles and reported sales of 39 billion euros.

Nissan said earlier this year it wanted to sell 4.6 million vehicles in its full year to March 2012, an increase of 9.9 percent.

ELECTRIC CAR OPTIMISM

Ghosn said he was confident about the outlook for the alliance's electric cars and said China would soon announce its official support for the technology.

The two car makers are betting heavily on electric vehicles, jointly investing 4 billion euros in the technology.

"By the end of last month we had sold 15,000 Nissan Leaf," Ghosn said, referring to Nissan's small electric car.

"It is already the most sold electric car in history. The (Renault-Nissan) alliance will have 1.5 million electric cars sold by 2016," he said. Ghosn was speaking at the launch of the new Renault Fluence electric sedan and Kangoo electric van -- the first two of four electric models Renault will sell.

"We are selling 1,500 Nissan Leaf a month in the United States and more than 1,000 a month in Japan. The only problem we have had is supply," he added.

Ghosn has repeatedly said he believes electric vehicles could account for 10 percent of new car sales by 2020, a more ambitious target than many other car makers.

Ghosn said that there had been no cancellations in incentives or support schemes for electric cars so far despite the Europe's debt crisis and austerity measures.

Car makers need governments and infrastructure partners to install charging points for electric cars if they are to sell in large numbers, as one key concern for drivers is the limited range of their batteries.

"Yes, there might be some risk in countries which already accepted supporting the electric car but some forget that there are new countries coming in," Ghosn said.

"China have not announced their official position yet but they are going to support the electric car and the Brazilians are starting to think about it," Ghosn said.

"It does not matter if, for example, Portugal stops the incentives, as long as other countries like the United States continue to support. If countries like France, Japan and the UK support and then China, that is about to start to support, that's fine," he added.

Thierry Koskas, the head of Renault's electric vehicle programme, said he expected sales of Renault's new electric models to take off in 2012.

"In 2011 we are just starting so the sales figures will be feeble. We can't really have the precise sales figures yet for the next year but in 2012 we will have the Kangoo production capacity in cruise speed, so, producing 30,000 Kangoos is a possibility."

(Editing by Helen Massy-Beresford)

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