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Europe car sales grow 7% but VW fails to end share decline

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Automotive News Europe

October 14, 2016 09:03 CET
UPDATED: Oct. 15 14:01 – adds IHS comments

New-car sales in Europe grew by 7.3 percent last month with most major automakers except PSA Group gaining volume. Volkswagen Group, hit by its diesel-emissions scandal, continued to lose market share.

Passenger-car registrations in the EU and EFTA markets increased to 1.496 million in September, a seasonally strong month, from 1.395 million a year earlier, data from industry association ACEA showed.

The tally marked a new record for September, ACEA said in a statement today, adding the region’s top five markets of Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Spain kept growing.

Renault posted the largest gain among major carmakers with an 19 percent increase, helped by its new SUVs, the Kadar and Captur, and new midsize models, the Espace minivan and Talisman sedan. The rollout of the Megane compact car and Scenic minivan will further boost the automaker in coming months,

Fiat Chrysler jumped 14 percent, helped by double-digit growth in Italy, Spain and Portugal. Sales of General Motors’ Opel/Vauxhall cars grew by 3.9 percent.

PSA dropped 5.8 percent, dragged down by big declines at its DS brand, whose sales fell by 15 percent and Citroen, whose volume dipped 10 percent. Peugeot sales fell 1.9 percent. PSA likely will bounce back with new launches such as the Peugeot 3008 and 5008 SUVs and Citroen C3 subcompact hatchback, analysts IHS Markit said.

Ford was the only other major carmaker in the red, with sales down 0.7 percent.

VW market share hit

Sales at the 12-brand Volkswagen Group rose by 5.6 percent with Skoda posting the biggest gain at 8.9 percent followed by Audi at 8.5 percent. VW brand’s volume gained 3.8 percent, trailing the overall market’s rise, as competitors took advantage of a loss of confidence in the marque to attract buyers. The brand’s share dropped to 10.8 percent last month from 11.2 percent a year earlier.  Seat’s sales were flat and Porsche sales gained 8.4 percent.

VW Group’s share fell to 23.9 percent in September from 25.0 percent in the same month last year. The automaker was battered by negative publicity related to investor lawsuits and the resignation of the head of development at the Audi luxury brand amid legal investigations. The group’s nine-month European market share narrowed to 23.9 percent from 25 percent a year earlier, the lowest level for the period since 2011.

Kia grew most among Asian brands with a 12 percent gain. Toyota brand’s sales grew by 7.6 percent while Nissan’s volume dropped 3.2 percent.

Luxury nameplates BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus posted double-digit or near double-digit growth with Jaguar Land Rover sales jumped 31 percent.

• Download PDF, above right, for September and 9-month sales by automaker, brand and market.

Nine-month European sales are up 7.7 percent to 11.6 million.

European car sales have been increasing since 2013, rebounding from a two-decade low in the aftermath of the financial crisis. Growth has cooled in recent months as concerns about the UK’s exit from the EU and Deutsche Bank’s future cloud the region’s economic outlook.

Carlos da Silva, manager of IHS Markit’s European light-vehicle sales forecast, said pent-up demand continuing to feed the market, with a clear emphasis on fleet activity in most countries.

“European automobile demand appears to have peaked,” analysts at Moody’s Investors Service, including Bruce Clark in New York, wrote in a report last week. “Manufacturers’ ambitious volume expectations for their new models will keep pricing pressure high and could result in discounts and incentives eroding profit margins and cash flows.”

UK passes Germany

The UK exceeded Germany as the biggest European market in September due to a semiannual license plate change that prompts a demand surge. British registrations in the month rose 1.6 percent to 469,696 autos compared with Germany’s volume of 298,002, up 9.4 percent. Year-to-date sales in Germany are 2.56 million compared with 2.2 million in the UK.

The UK’s growth was the highest level ever for a September, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, but slowing gains in recent months indicate that uncertainty tied to the economic effects of Brexit is weighing on buyers.

Southern Europe continued to rebound with 17 percent growth in Italy, 14 percent in Spain and 2.5 percent in France.

Reuters and Bloomberg contributed to this story

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