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J.D. Power Forecasts Lower Auto Sales in 2008; Finbarr O'Neill Joins the Company

March 19, 2008

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. — New-vehicle sales in 2008 are expected to reach their lowest levels since 1994, dropping to 14.95 million cars and light trucks, according to J.D. Power and Associates. The company also announced that Finbarr O'Neill, former CEO and vice chairman of Reynolds and Reynolds, is joining J.D. Power as senior vice president and general manager of international operations.

The drop in forecasted auto sales revises the originally forecasted 15.7 million units in 2008.

“While the automotive industry’s slow performance in January and February certainly contributes to the anticipated drop in new-vehicle sales, declining consumer confidence and spending, as well as turbulent financial and economic market conditions, are primarily driving the decline,” said Jeff Schuster, executive director of automotive forecasting for J.D. Power and Associates.

Additionally, a weaker retail and fleet market both contributed to the overall reassessment of total new-vehicle sales for 2008. Retail sales were initially forecasted at 12.6 million units, but are now expected to decline to 12.3 million — down from 12.8 million in 2007. General economic conditions, coupled with less widespread incentives, are driving the retail decline. Fleet sales have already experienced a weaker-than-expected start in 2008, but a further decline is anticipated, as daily rental sales are not projected to return to pre-2007 levels.

“Unfortunately, the current economic environment is fraught with uncertainty and risk, with the financial crisis, worsening oil prices, and weak housing and stock markets steadily impacting other sectors of the economy. As such, our revised forecast is better positioned to reflect the challenges automakers will face in the months ahead,” said Bob Schnorbus, chief economist at J.D. Power and Associates.

In the first quarter of 2008, sales are expected to average 15.2 million units, with sales in the second quarter falling to approximately 14.8 million units before beginning a slow rebound during the second half of the year and into 2009.

In other company news, J.D. Power and Associates announced that O'Neill is joining the company. In his new position, O'Neill will lead J.D. Power and Associates' international development throughout Asia Pacific, Europe and Canada. He will be based at the firm's Westlake Village, Calif., office.

Prior to joining Reynolds and Reynolds, O'Neill was co-chairman, president and CEO of Mitsubishi Motor Sales North America from 2003 to 2005 and president and CEO of Hyundai Motor America from 1998 to 2003. He joined Hyundai in 1985 as general counsel, directing all legal, internal audit, insurance and government relations functions.

"Finbarr is a person of high integrity, and he understands the unique challenges and opportunities faced by both manufacturing and professional services industries," said Steve Goodall, president of J.D. Power and Associates. "His legal background, professional services experience, and keen understanding of the international marketplace will help us as we aggressively grow our presence in the global marketplace to the benefit of our clients."

O'Neill, who early in his career was an executive with Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc., is a past board chairman of the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers. He has also received numerous awards and accolades, including being a three-time Automotive News All-Star winner and the BrandWeek 2001 Marketer of the Year.

O'Neill replaces Jamey Power, who will be transitioning from senior vice president of international operations to senior vice president and strategic advisor. In his new capacity, Power will continue J.D. Power's growth and impact globally and represent the company at a range of industry, client and public events.

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