By on April 11, 2012

Record new car sales are not the news one does expect from Europe. But those are the news from Germany.

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.


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9 Comments on “VW, BMW, Daimler Report Record Sales. Opel Does Not...”

  • avatar

    Vauxhall figures in the UK (Opel’s largest single market historically) tell the story:

    The problem is their cars are boring. GM should buy back Lotus and provide Vauxhall with a tuning division again. And they shouldn’t close Ellesmere Port which is GM’s most efficient plant in Europe. They should let Opel go to the wall and simply sell Vauxhall on the Mainland. Vauxhall has just about enough volume for GM to pull it off and it’s so efficient by itself it could pull the transition off.

    • 0 avatar

      Opels are not more boring than Volkswagens, which sell like hotcakes.
      In Europe, boredness is an easy ranking:
      1. Toyota: the definition of bland
      2. Volkswagen: the European take on the same concept
      3. Audi: premium blandness (choose you sausage size).

      And believe me, European blandness works very well: VW is #1 by far, and Audi has now overtaken Merc and BMW.

      Opel’s problem is that they are not seen as aspirational. Today, their quality is equal or better than the VW. But look back one generation and that was not the case. VW has been more consistent throughout the years and seems now undefeatable. If Opel can hang on til the next generation, they may be saved, because Astras and Insignias are good and good-looking cars, and they’ll build loyalty.

  • avatar

    Actually more I think about it, why does Vauxhall need Opel. It sells enough by itself and could almost model itself on Holden. Just let Opel go to the wall and rebuild with Vauxhall using GM’s part’s bin.

    • 0 avatar

      What? Vauxhall and Opel are the same – you just switch the position of the steering wheel and change Opel badges for the Griffin badge and you get a Vauxhall. Same range of cars, same names etc.

      Moving on from the focus of the core German brands and Opel, how did all the other brands do – Ford, Fiat, Peugeot/Citroen, Honda, Toyota etc in Germany? Opel is hardly unique in having European problems. I note that they still are in the top three for compact (Astra) and sub-compacts (Corsa) which are the largest segments of the market. Other than VW and Ford (whoa re #1 and 2 respectively) I think the other mainstream brands would love to have the “problem” of only being number 3.

  • avatar

    Vauxhall needs Opel to design and develop the cars as all they do today is minor tailoring for the UK market. Vauxhall’s design centre was closed in the 1970s.

  • avatar

    “What do the other German makers have that Opel does not have? They have strong sales abroad.”

    In a sense, Opels ARE sold abroad, they just carry the Buick badge. The same way they carry the Vauxhall badge in the UK. So while the marque isn’t doing well, the vehicles themselves are selling decently, at least in China and the US, the vehicles’ biggest markets.

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