One by one, German automakers – with the notable exception of Opel – are reporting unheard-of numbers. Let’s have a look.
Today, the Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand reported its strongest first quarter in recorded history. 1.36 million units were delivered globally in the quarter, an increase of 10.5 percent compared to the 1.23 million sold in Q1 of 2011. March brought a new delivery record of 536,600 units, up 14.6 percent compared to March 2011.
This and strong Audi sales (up 14.1 percent in March and 10.8 percent for the quarter) point to record group level data that should be announced before the week ends.
With 185.728 BMW, MINI and Rolls-Royce sold, the BMW Group sold more vehicles in March than in any other month in its history, up 12 percent. The company also achieved a new high for the first three months: 425,528 units (prev. yr. 382,763 units), up11.2 percent compared with the first quarter of 2011.
Daimler had new sales records in every month of 2012. With 313,902 Mercedes-Benz passenger cars sold, the company set a new high for the first quarter. In March, sales rose by 11.0 percent to 131,334 units, recording the strongest sales month of the company’s history.
Opel is keeping its numbers under wraps, understandably, because they are depressing. In February, Opel’s sales in the EU27 were down nearly 14 percent. In March, Opel lost a painful 12.3 percent in a stable German market. (ACEA’s March data for Europe are not yet available.)
What do the other German makers have that Opel does not have? They have strong sales abroad. For all intents and purposes, Opel/Vauxhall have been kept out of markets in other continents. It now is unable to make up losses at home with gains abroad. To make matters worse for Opel, Chevrolet is becoming aggressive in Europe. Chevy’s gains however cannot make up for Opel’s losses, not by a long shot: In the first two months of the year, Chevrolet gained 5,534 sales in Europe, whereas Opel lost 28,906.
Volkswagen, BMW, Daimler try to hold their position in a Europe in turmoil. At the same time, they use the relatively low Euro to aggressively increase sales abroad. Audi’s sales in China, which reportedly is on the brink of disaster, increased 37 percent last month to 31,505 units.
There are too many car manufacturers and way too many car manufacturing plants in Europe. Unless governments intervene, only the fittest will survive. With an overflowing war chest, Volkswagen, BMW, and Daimler definitely look much healthier than the rest. No wonder that they are dead set against government intervention.
PS: Funny number on the margin: According to ACEA data, GM exported 73 cars from the US to Europe in the first two months of 2012, down 36.5 percent from 115 in January-February 2011. In the same period, 464 imported GM cars were counted in Japan. Using the logic of the anti-closed markets brigade, it should be high time to start a trade war. With Brussels.