Volumes continued to be weak with no significant seasonal Autumn improvement. Economic difficulties in Europe continued to depress construction and refurbishment activity, and, consequently, Architectural volumes were significantly below the previous year. Third quarter demand whilst remaining weak, was similar to the previous quarter. Prices continue to be at historically low levels. Automotive markets were also challenging, with low levels of consumer demand in most major markets leading to reductions in vehicle production when compared to the previous year. Calendar-year 2012 vehicle sales for Western Europe were approximately nine percent below the previous year. Exports of premium vehicles continued to provide some support to production levels. Automotive Glass Replacement (AGR) demand also fell from the previous year, as consumers postponed replacing damaged windshields where possible. In Technical glass markets, volumes of glass cord for engine timing belts were below the previous year, consistent with conditions experienced in the Automotive business.
In Japan, Architectural markets continued to improve gradually during the quarter with new housing starts reaching their highest level since 2008. Automotive markets, which had been robust earlier in the year, showed signs of weakness during the third quarter. AGR markets were relatively stable with demand levels similar to the previous year. Technical glass markets were robust, with relatively strong demand for consumer electronics devices.
In North America, Architectural markets continued to improve during the third quarter, but are still significantly below the level of 2008. Market volumes in Automotive also improved and are significantly above the previous year, although AGR markets experienced weak demand.
In the rest of the world, the Group’s architectural and automotive markets in South America were generally challenging, although sales of new vehicles in Brazil were higher than the previous year. Market conditions in South East Asia were also difficult, with a weak pricing environment reflecting continued imports of glass from China.
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