Germany In April 2010: Hilfe!

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

When German car sales exploded in 2009, fueled by government incentives, everybody knew there would be hell to pay in 2010. Sure enough, the market cratered in January and February. In March, new car registrations were down 26.6 percent, but at least, they had caught up with 2008 pre-carmageddon levels. So the thinking went: If the market continues that way, it might get back to its old normal, and the pull-forward theorists will be proven wrong. Then came awful April …

In April 2010, a mere 259,414 new cars were registered in Germany. That is 31.7 percent below April 2009. Granted, a drop was expected. But horrors of horrors: This April is 18.4 percent below the good old days of April 2008. Very few expected THAT. The chart looks ugly. It doesn’t bode well for European sales data for April, due out in a week or so.

Last year’s winners are this year’s losers. Small cars, which last year were seen to displace all other segments, are down 57.1 percent. Sports cars (+ 68.3 percent,) SUVs (+6.2 percent) and the upper middle class (+1.3 percent) are back from the dead. Brandwise, last year’s chumps are this year’s unexpected champs: BMW up 7.1 percent, Mercedes up 4.3 percent, and Porsche up 11.2 percent. People with money are tired of frugality.

Who would have thunk it: If Germans want to relish good April sales data, they have to look to America.

If you want Germany in April in all its statistical misery: Germany’s Kraftfahrtbundesamt offers the monthly report for download, but don’t look at the data on an empty stomach.

Bertel Schmitt
Bertel Schmitt

Bertel Schmitt comes back to journalism after taking a 35 year break in advertising and marketing. He ran and owned advertising agencies in Duesseldorf, Germany, and New York City. Volkswagen A.G. was Bertel's most important corporate account. Schmitt's advertising and marketing career touched many corners of the industry with a special focus on automotive products and services. Since 2004, he lives in Japan and China with his wife <a href=""> Tomoko </a>. Bertel Schmitt is a founding board member of the <a href=""> Offshore Super Series </a>, an American offshore powerboat racing organization. He is co-owner of the racing team Typhoon.

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  • FleetofWheel FleetofWheel on May 05, 2010

    So I guess the take-away for stimulus junkies is to revive Cash for Clunkers and the $8,000 mortgage tax credit for home buyers and get a good bubbly mini-spike going again.

  • Hreardon Hreardon on May 05, 2010

    Incentives such as Cash for Clunkers, Cash for Appliances and the Mortgage Credit do absolutely nothing for fundamentals other than pull demand forward and utterly distort the market. These are programs that may prove somewhat effective when you have a supply/demand imbalance as in a normal recession, but they inflict serious harm when economies are in an INSOLVENCY (debt) recession, as we are in currently. Expect home sales to absolutely crater come June, and as we've seen with auto sales, apart from the C4C period last year, they've fallen back to 'normal'. If you look at economic numbers (that have become utterly distorted thanks to every scheme to prevent default) what you'll see is that so far in 2010 we've gained GDP through inventory restocking (which was necessary after the rundowns in 2009), but little in the way of true growth outside of those industries which have received huge shots in the arm: housing, autos, appliances, infrastructure. Until the debt is paid down or defaulted upon we're going to muddle through. The quicker our incompetent overlords in Washington start fighting the current battle instead of the last one, we might make some progress. Until then, the next few years are gonna be rough.

  • Probert A few mega packs would probably have served as decent backup.
  • Lou_BC Lead sleds. Now-a-days GM would just use Bondo.
  • Jrhurren This is a great series. Thanks Corey
  • Tane94 Not as stylish as the Soul which it is replacing but a practical shape and bonus points for EV only.
  • Ronin What is the magical white swan event in the foreseeable future that will suddenly reverse the trend?Success tends to follow success, and likewise failure. The perception, other than among true believers, is that e-cars are a lost cause. Neither government fiat, nor government bribery, nor even the promise of superior virtue among one's peers have been enough to push past the early adapter curve. Either the bust-out is right now for e-cars, or it doesn't happen. Marketing 101.Even subtle language-manipulation, such as deeming those possessing common sense as suffering from some sort of vague anxiety (eg, "range anxiety") has not been enough to induce people to care.Twenty years from now funny AI-generated comedians will make fun of the '20s, and their obsession with theose silly half-forgotten EVs. They will point out that, yes, EVs actually ran on electricity generated by such organic fuels as coal and natural gas after all, and then they will perform synthesized laughter at us.