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West European car sales off to a good start in January 
Peter Schmidt | Editor

Published: Fri, 02nd February 2018 16:56:08 GMT

Mercedes dealership Berlin 2017

Europe’s car market, buoyed by strengthening economic growth and high consumer confidence in virtually all of mainland Europe, seems set to continue its forward momentum. 

Spain kicked off this year’s reporting season with news of a bullish 20.4 per cent rise in January car sales. 

Same month sales in France, with an unchanged number of working days - as has been the case in much of Europe - grew 2.5 per cent. 

The Netherlands posted a lively 16.2 per cent gain, while last month’s car sales in Italy grew 3.4 per cent. 

That’s followed in turn by even more encouraging same month car sales gains of 8.7 and 11.3 per cent in both Austria and Switzerland

By any measure, just hours into February, first hard car sales numbers for January are encouraging for Europe’s carmakers and importers. 

They are suggesting that Europe’s already long running car sales recovery isn’t about to hit the buffers.

News that West Europe’s 2018 car sales year got off to a good start was by no means surprising. 

That’s chiefly because of late Europe’s economic growth recorded the highest annual growth for a decade. 

Moreover, a European Commission poll on economic outlook also points to a 17-year high in confidence levels. 

Aside from France and Spain, where last year’s economic growth has also outperformed earlier expectations, in Germany’s economy things are still going swimmingly well too. 

So much so that observers already raised concerns of a possible overheating. 

Against earlier expectations of a slightly cooler 1.9 per cent growth for this year, yesterday Germany’s economic ministry revised upwards its earlier growth forecast for this year to 2.4 per cent. 

As it turns out, and a useful first hint as to which way Europe’s car market is heading, Nissan’s European bigwigs currently expect some 2 per cent growth for this year’s European vehicle market. 

Moreover, releasing its full year results for last year yesterday, Daimler said it expected “slight growth” in this year’s overall European car market.

To say that West Europe’s car market is still surging ahead at a fast rate of knots would of course be a wild exaggeration. 

However, most recent figures are pointing to a continuing car sales recovery, driven primarily by a healthier than expected economy, improving employment prospects and much improved consumer confidence. 

Early days, but West Europe’s car recovery story is not over. 

But making money from what looks suspiciously like a saturated and mature car market will be a great deal harder.

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