By on May 17, 2010

The European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association ACEA released sales numbers for April. As predicted on Friday, the numbers are bad. For the first time this year, and for the first time in 10 months, numbers are negative. New passenger car registrations in Europe fell by 7.4 percent in April compared to the same month last year. They will get worse.

Percentage-wise, the decline in April registrations is a by-product of the cash for clunkers upturn last year. Led by Germany, more and more countries jumped on the bandwagon, with considerable effect (see chart.) More and more European countries have either ended or are phasing out the incentives for putting aging cars out of their misery.

It had been widely expected that sales will be down in 2010 compared to the government-enhanced numbers of 2009. For the rest of 2010, the negative numbers will get higher and higher, as we are comparing to a higher and higher base.

More disconcerting is the fact that for the first 4 months, EU car sales are already 11.6 percent below pre-crisis levels in the same period of 2008. Also, some markets still have scrapping programs, or show the decaying effect of just terminated programs. Once all of Europe has been weaned off the clunker steroids, the market will look miserable for quite some while.

With the drug highs mostly gone, a bleak new normalcy is setting in. In April, Germany was again Europe’s largest market with 259,414 units, despite new registrations falling by 31.7 percent. #2 on the podium: France. #3: Italy.

By manufacturer in the 27 countries of the EU, the Volkswagen Group remains the unassailable leader with a 22 percent market share. PSA Group is in second position with a 13.9 percent market share, followed by Renault Group with a 10.5 percent share. Ford is 4th with a 9.4 percent share.

Speaking of Ford, there most likely are huge regrets in Cologne for embarking on the silly “largest brand in Europe” PR gamble. It’s coming to haunt them. In the EU 27, the Ford brand is now in 4th position after Volkswagen, Renault and Peugeot. On a brand level, Ford lost 19.6 percent in the EU 27, nearly three points more than the 17 percent they had (not really) admitted on Friday, for a Europe 19 that doesn’t exist. If they wouldn’t have made outrageous claims, this would have fallen under the table. Toyota (-21.3 percent), Suzuki (-26.3 percent) and Honda (-28.1 percent) have worse numbers. A much better PR strategy for Ford would have been to tout their #4 ranking as a manufacturer, a respectable showing. What helped the Ford Group was a surprising 35.2 percent rise in Volvo registrations all over Europe. Volvo still belongs to and counts for Ford until the deal with Geely closes. Without Volvo, Ford would be in the #7 slot on a group level, behind GM and Fiat.

Detailed numbers are available as PDF and in Excel format for your number crunching pleasure.

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