Seasonally, August is never a great sales month in Germany. People don’t buy cars in August. They drive cars. They are out of the country and on vacation. This August was an exceptionally crummy one in Deutschland. Only new 200,885 passenger vehicles (or Personenkraftwagen as they call them over there) were registered in August. That is 27 percent below the Abwrackprämien-addled August of 2009. But that’s only part of the story.
Sales were also 6.3 percent below August 2008. 2010 sales in Deutschland (green line in the graph above) settle in consistently below 2008 levels (blue line). But not precipitously lower. The Abwrackprämien-aria of 2009 didn’t have the oft cited pull forward effect. It had created (red line) obscene levels of new car sales, which were pulled away from used car sales. I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again: In Germany, owners of cars 9 years and older usually don’t buy new. They buy used. In 2009, a whole lot of them bought new, never to be seen in a new car showroom again. Germany was spared the carmageddon, actually, a boom was created. Now, we settle-in back to normal. Abwrackprämie was self-financing (there is a 19 percent VAT in Germany), and it was one of the few boondoggles that actually worked.
This year, the German auto industry makes up the decrease in exports. Production is actually well above 2009.
More signs that the old normal is coming back: While small cars, the Abwrackpräimien-darlings, are licking their wounds, previously shunned segments celebrate a come-back; Sportscars are up 64.9 percent, SUVs gained 31.3 percent. Zaftig is beautiful: The pricier and bigger segments are above prior year levels.
A loss of 27 percent doesn’t leave a lot of room for growth for a brand. Except if it happens to fit in these trends. Audi is 4.7 percent above August 2009. Porsche (+64.2 percent) profits from the newfound Sportwagenlust. Land Rover (+63.1 percent), Mitsubishi (+30.9 percent) and Subaru (+13.2 percent) gain from the resurgence of the 4WD craze.
The big growth segment? Used cars. Sales up 21.1 percent. 649,137 used cars changed hands, eclipsing new cars more than 3:1. There’s your pull-forward. Everything back to normal.
All data available for download here. Some German required, but not much.