In a sign that the European automobile market may finally be recovering, new car registrations in September were up 5.5% from the year before. Sales in the UK and an extra sales day in the month were factors but industry analysts say that things have finally bottomed out in Europe. Year to date sales were still down, -4% to 9.34 million cars, still on track to be the worst year in two decades.
After the longest European recession since the adoption of the euro currency ended with GDP growth in the second quarter of this year, demand has increased but when car sales were down in August, there was concern. With September sales up, industry watchers now think the August decline was just a blip.
“The worst is behind us. The decline in sales has considerably slowed and we are now witnessing signs of recovery in demand,” said Peter Fuss, Senior Advisory Partner at Ernst & Young’s Global Automotive Centre.
“The sales, however, continue to be artificially boosted by huge discounts and self-registrations by dealers,” he said. Fuss also said that it will be another two years before the European market is strong enough to grow sales without incentives.
The German auto industry trade group, VDA, said, “The western European auto market continued on its course to recovery in September.”
The Volkswagen group was up 6 %, paced by a 17% increase at Skoda and a 15.5% increase at Seat. Audi was up 3% and VW’s own brand was up 2%. A 40% increase at Dacia helped boost Renault’s sales by 22%. All three of General Motors’ European brands’ sales were up with Opel and Vauxhall posting 5.5% increases and Chevy sales up 5%. BMW was up 6% and Daimler reported a 12% increase. Volvo increased sales by 13% and Jaguar Land Rover was up 10.5%. Hyundai was up 6% while Kia was unchanged. Toyota, Mazda, Suzuki and Mitsubishi were all up.
On the down side, Smart was off 2.5%, PSA/Peugeot-Citroen had a 3 percent drop and Fiat’s group sales were down 3%. Nissan was slightly down.
On a regional basis, new car registrations were up 29% in Spain, spurred by government incentives. UK registrations were up 12%, making it six months in a row for double digit increases. Sales in France were up 3%. Sales in Greece, Ireland and Portugal were also up by double digits. Italy and Germany were down, 3% and 1% respectively.