Drawing on a host of statistics, trends and no small share of black arts, the industry analyst group CSM Worldwide has announced a forecast for the auto industry that shows a slow 2008 followed by a robust 2009, ramping up to 17.7 million units worldwide by 2014.

CSM also sees growth returning to the North American market in 2009, but calls it 'slow but steady,' with most of the benefit going to the so-called 'Asian 4' - Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Hyundai/Kia. Smaller cars will be favored, taking their increased volume from the mid-size segment.

In Europe, growth will be focused in Central and Eastern Europe while Western Europe remains essentially stagnant, with growth of less than one percent through 2014. CSM thinks Russia will pass Germany to take the largest automotive market title by 2014, yet Germany will continue to dominate production.

India's presence on the global scene will be increasingly felt as production climbs to 200 million vehicles by 2028 on the back of 16-percent per year growth in light vehicle production. India will also see more citizens buying cars than China, thanks in part to its quickly growing working-class, which is increasing more than twice as quickly as China's.

China will also see significant growth, however, and CSM expects China's annual auto sales to exceed those of the United States by the mid-2020s. Unfortunately for China, the proliferation of models and the lack of economies of scale are hurting brand image and profitability, and the problem is expected to continue.

Whether any or all of this bears out over the next six years will remain to be seen, but the outlook is overall a positive one, and that's something rare enough in the automotive world these days.