Western Europe: strong growth in first quarter – USA stays on course
March turned out to be a strong month for the large automobile markets. Following a weak February result, passenger car sales in China showed year-on-year growth of over 12 percent last month to nearly 2 million new cars. Western Europe added a good 5 percent despite the Easter holidays and exceeded 1.6 million new registrations. The US light vehicle market grew by 3 percent, reaching a volume of almost 1.6 million units. The markets continued to contract in Russia (-10 percent) and Brazil (-23 percent). In the first quarter of this year China enjoyed the keenest growth among the three major markets, at just over 9 percent, followed by Western Europe (+8 percent) and the US (+3 percent). “The first three months have brought good results, and we are especially pleased to see the double-digit growth on the Chinese passenger car market in March,” stressed Matthias Wissmann, President of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA).
In March the Western European passenger car market reached a good 1.6 million new registrations, the highest sales volume in any individual month for exactly nine years. The Italian car market increased by 17 percent, driven most of all by demand from private customers (+26 percent). Increases were also seen on the British (+5 percent) and French (+7 percent) car markets. By contrast, German new registrations in March hovered around last year’s figure. Car sales in Spain showed their first tiny fall (-1 percent) after 30 months of continuous, largely double-digit growth.
Wissmann said, “The continuing economic recovery, low interest rates and keen demand for replacement vehicles – especially in the Southern European countries – are behind the strong first-quarter growth in Western Europe (+8 percent) to nearly 3.7 million passenger cars.”
Most of the smaller Western European markets also developed positively in the first quarter of this year. Sales increased by double figures in Ireland (+28 percent), Portugal (+26 percent), Finland (+13 percent) and Sweden (+10 percent). The markets were also buoyant in Norway (+5 percent), Austria (+4 percent), Denmark (+5 percent) and Belgium (+2 percent). Year-on-year shrinkage was recorded only in the Netherlands (-10 percent) and Greece (-11 percent).
Sales of passenger cars in the new EU Member States added more than 14 percent, climbing to 102,800 units. In the first quarter a total of 269,500 passenger cars were newly registered (+14 percent). Growth exceeded 20 percent in Cyprus (+34 percent), Lithuania (+22 percent), Latvia (+21 percent), Romania (+21 percent) and Slovakia (+21 percent).
The US market for light vehicles (passenger cars and light trucks) benefited from two additional trading days in March. The figures were helped by the healthy labor market, low interest rates and low fuel prices. The light truck segment continued to gain ground: whereas passenger car sales fell by almost 7 percent in March to 667,000 units, sales of light trucks climbed by 11 percent to 918,000 vehicles. Year-to-date sales of all light vehicles rose by a good 3 percent to nearly 4.1 million units. The first quarter of 2016 showed the best sales result of any first quarter in the US since 2001.
The automotive business in China is still being boosted by the lower VAT on passenger cars with engines of up to 1.6 liters, which was introduced in the fall of 2015. During the first three months of this year passenger car sales almost reached 5.5 million vehicles – a year-on-year rise of just over 9 percent.
The Japanese passenger car market continued to contract in March. Demand for cars fell by 9 percent to 532,500 units. The first quarter of 2016 saw sales total 1.2 million units, which was around 7 percent down on last year’s level.
Passenger car sales in India again showed dynamic growth last month, increasing by 5 percent to 256,900 units. The Indian market finished the first quarter with a rise of a good 2 percent (723,100 units).
Contraction of the Russian light vehicle market slowed down again. Sales of new cars fell by 10 percent last month to a volume of 125,900 units. Year-to-date light vehicle sales in Russia have fallen by nearly 17 percent (319,100 vehicles).
In Brazil, March new registrations of light vehicles plummeted by more than 23 percent (173,400 units). This year so far, 28 percent fewer new vehicles have been registered than in the same period last year (465,500 units).
|March 2016||January - March 2016|
|Units||Change 16/15 in %||Units||Change 16/15 in %|
|European Union (EU-27)*||1.700.700||6,0||3.819.300||8,2|
|W. Europe (EU15+EFTA)||1.642.200||5,2||3.662.400||7,6|
|New EU Countries (EU11)*||102.800||14,2||269.500||14,3|