By Christiaan Hetzner and Helen Massy-Beresford
PARIS, Sept 30 (Reuters) - Top carmakers let cautiousoptimism creep into their outlooks at the Paris Auto Show onThursday, pinning hopes on emerging markets to dispel darkclouds over major western economies.
"This is the first auto show that looks beyond the crisis.Carmakers' attitude has changed. We see a sligthly rosier futurebut it's too early to open champagne bottles," Fiat SpA ChiefExecutive Sergio Marchionne said.
Marchionne said the Italian carmaker now expected to reporta net profit this year as good sales in Latin America this monthhelped offset weakness in Italy and Europe.
Volkswagen AG has turned slightly more optimistic, the saleschief for Europe's top carmaker told reporters, forecasting theglobal car market will grow by 6-7 percent this year, more thanthe 5 percent he had seen before.
"There are still risks but we increasingly see more reasonto view developments more positively than before," ChristianKlingler said as Europe's top auto show this year kicked off.
Carlos Ghosn, chief executive of both French group RenaultSA and Japanese partner Nissan Motor Co, said Europe's carmarket could fall 2 percent next year, adding: "Growth of 3 to 4percent globally (in 2011) would be completely reasonable".
Automakers in Europe have braced for pain ascash-for-clunkers schemes that many countries introduced to spurdemand during the financial crisis expire. Budget cuts to shoreup stretched public finances won't help consumer spending.
"We are probably in for a slow continued recovery around allmarkets. But there will probably be some austerity measures insome countries that will change that outlook," Ford of Europe chairman and chief executive Stephen Odell told reporters.
Carmakers are counting on brisk growth in emerging marketssuch as Brazil, China, and India to take up the slack.
"It is no news that the first place is China for most of us,definitely for Mercedes, but it does not stop there," DaimlerChief Executive Dieter Zetsche told Reuters Insider.
"Within the BRIC countries certainly Russia is taking upagain, Brazil -- in the volume segment more than the premiumsegment -- is growing very fast, meanwhile overtaking Germany asa car market. And we have as well in India good sales rises."
PSA Peugeot Citroen Chief Executive Philippe Varin took asimilar line. "In emerging countries we are going to seecontinuing growth. In Europe we think 2010 is a low point, so2011 should be higher or equal to 2010. We do not see hugegrowth in 2011 on the horizon," he said.
VW's premium brand Audi expected to sell more than 300,000cars a year in China as early as 2012 and in 2013 at the latest,it said, adding it planned to expand production capacity therewith partner FAW Group in the medium term.
Booming demand in China helped German sports car makerPorsche AG post record revenues.
The European car market was not expected to return to thepre-crisis level of sales it achieved in 2007 until around 2013.
GM's Opel division said the western European car market hadhit bottom but would stay depressed in 2011.
To counter unrelenting pressure, carmakers have sought morepartners to cut costs and boost efficiency.
Volkswagen Chairman Ferdinand Piech cast an eye on Fiat'sAlfa Romeo brand and Japanese group Nissan Motor said it willexplore broader cooperation with Daimler.
"13 is my lucky number," Piech said late on Wednesday,referring to the number of brands his group would have if itbought Alfa in VW's race to topple Toyota Motor Corp as theworld's top automaker.
Marchionne reiterated that Alfa was not for sale.
Infiniti, Nissan's luxury brand, will talk to the maker ofMercedes-Benz cars about sharing a Daimler sedan platform andits engines, a Nissan executive said, fleshing out a three-wayalliance including Renault.
Many carmakers were set to unveil zero-emission electriccars, testing whether consumers were ready to pay for vehiclesthat remove internal combustion engines from the environmentalequation.
Car sales in many major markets including France, Italy,Japan, Spain, and the United States were due out on Oct. 1. (Additional reporting by David Bailey and James Regan, Writingby Michael Shields; Editing by Hans Peters and David Holmes)