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Back on track, marked rise in Europeís April car sales  
Peter Schmidt | Editor

Published: Fri, 04th May 2018 16:13:18 GMT

Geneva Motor Show 2018 wide shot

"What a difference a day makes. After the cold snap in March, last month finally saw the start of spring. With buds on the trees and the days growing longer, spring finally made its mark. Just over three days into May, AIDís first provisional stab at April car sales in Western Europe shows that all the regionís markets saw a notable uplift in sales. Thatís a healthy looking gain of more than 9 per cent. In consequence, one third through the year, sales are up by close on 2 per cent for the regions. The reasons are all too easily spotted.

While March car sales were dragged down by the ill-effects of between one and two fewer working days, this April the exact opposite happened. 

Thatís the extra one or even two working days. So it is little surprise that this left its outwardly cheery and positive mark on last monthís car sales turnout. 

Foremost, April sales in both Spain and France rose in turn by 12.2 and 9 per cent. 

Thatís followed in turn by equally lively gains of 8 per cent in Germany and 6.5 per cent in Italy. 

But for some, there was one more surprise. 

The icy grip that has held the UKís new car market in recession briefly loosened its hold this April. 

Thanks in part to special factors during the same month last year, Aprilís UK sales bounced back with a 10.4 per cent surge.

In the region overall, Aprilís good sales can be judged in part from the fact that even markets like Norway, still trailing last yearís first quarter sales by 11.5 per cent, saw a lively rebound in April car sales. 

Thatís an upbeat 24.8 per cent gain, coming in the wake of contrasting double-digit car sales losses in both January and February. 

Thanks to Aprilís expected rebound in sales, West Europeís car market rejoined the upward trajectory witnessed during the opening two months of this year. 

Thatís not say that this underlying upward momentum witnessed so far this year will be retained during the remaining months of this year. 

While the underlying fundamentals of Europeís car market are still upbeat, regional new car sales this first quarter were buoyed by the extensive use of mouth-watering diesel car scrappage incentives. 

If past car buying patterns are any guide, likelihood is that these remarkably generous incentives have pulled sales forward at the expense of this yearís second half as bargain hunting motorists rushed to take advantage.

This take on both April and this yearís first third gains support from this yearís German market. 

Whereas fleet sales hardly moved, up just 2 per cent this April, same month sales to bargain-savvy private buyers topped year earlier levels by a solid 19.3 per cent, according to KBA figures. 

But apart from Aprilís return to business as usual, thanks in no small part to the extra one to two working days, private buyers are continuing to dump diesels in exchange for petrol powered cars. 

The message from Aprilís German market, where diesels were outsold almost two-to-one by petrol-fuelled cars. 

That simply couldnít fail but impact on todayís closely monitored fleet average CO2 emissions. 

Unsurprisingly, and alarming for the auto-industryís already stressed CEOs, for yet another month Germanyís fleet average rose. 

This time by 1.6 percentage points to 130.4g/km. 

Thatís in spite of a more than doubling in Germanyís pure electric car sales this April. 

Letís see what the Merry Month of May bring. 

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