LONDON -- Analysts picked Bavarian luxury carmaker BMW as the most likely future top performer in Europe.
"BMW is the default choice," said Max Warburton, executive director of global investment research at Goldman Sachs in London.
The Munich carmaker keeps making winners.
"It's difficult to see how the 1 series won't meet its targets," he said.
Sabine Blümel, London-based auto analyst for Italy's Banca IMI, was likewise bullish on BMW, but she had some reservations.
Arndt Ellinghorst of Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein was one of the industry experts participating in Automotive News Europe's annual analysts oundtable in London, July 14.
The Asian carmakers also received the analysts' praise, particularly Toyota.
"Toyota is phenomenal with what their pricing is doing," Warburton said. "They're getting a 20 to 30 percent price premium versus Ford and Opel. They've got the residuals and the dealer networks. They just look unstoppable." He also believes Nissan and Honda will be able to follow Toyota's lead.
General Motors, in the midst of a European restructuring, still has much work to do, the analysts agreed.
"I don't think they've really bit the bullet on capacity," said Nigel Griffiths, analyst for Global Insight Automotive. "They're not prepared to make a bet on [closing] one of the plants."
Said Blümel: "Saab has to reinvent itself as a premium brand."
PSA/Peugeot-Citroen, the analysts' darling of the late 1990s and early years of this decade, has found the going tougher lately.
"They've lost a lot of momentum in the last 12 months," said Griffiths.
But Peugeot still has many strengths.
Said Arndt Ellinghorst, head of European automotive research at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein in Frankfurt: "Peugeot is looking better than Renault in the core European markets. Renault is losing 30 percent in Germany."
Analysts gave MG Rover only a slim chance of long-term survival.
"They don't have the budget to develop new cars," said Blümel. "It's as simple as that."
Warburton said: "MG Rover surprised all of us by lasting this long. You've got to congratulate them for being around this long. The problem is in judging when the end comes, and I don't think anyone in this room would argue that it won't come," he said. "There is no Rover 45 [replacement model] -- there's nothing being developed," he said.
Fiat's rough road
Analysts also see Fiat still facing tough times ahead.
"It's difficult to see how they'll get back to breakeven," said Warbur-ton. "Fiat has one of the lowest cost bases in the world. There's just nothing to cut."
He praised Fiat for technical innovations, such as developing the platform strategy and common-rail diesel.
"But Fiat can't do anything more on the cost-cutting side," Warburton said. "Anything it does must be on the revenue side."