Passenger car sales in the European Union (EU) plummeted almost 10 per cent in February – the biggest drop since 2010 – as consumers tread warily through uncertain economic times.
Sales across the 27 member countries fell 9.7 per cent last month compared with February 2011. The negative year-on-year result was the largest for the region since October 2010, when it endured a 16.0 per cent drop.
Renault Group (Renault and Dacia) was the hardest hit, with sales down 24.0 per cent, or 26,721 vehicles, for the month. The French company is fairing even worse year-to-date for 2012, down 24.6 per cent and already more than 50,000 units off the pace of the beginning of 2011.
Compatriot PSA Peugeot-Citroen didn’t fair much better. The EU’s second largest automotive group declined 16.8 per cent in February, or 23,406 vehicles, and is 15.8 per cent behind 2011 year-to-date.
Fiat Group – whose major brands include Fiat, Lancia/Chrysler and Alfa Romeo – fell 16.7 per cent, while General Motors Group – including Opel/Vauhaul, Chevrolet and GM – dipped 13.8 per cent for the month.
Demand for new vehicles dropped in all major EU markets – France (-20.2 per cent), Italy (-18.9 per cent), the UK (-2.5 per cent), and Spain (-2.1 per cent) – expect Germany, where sales were stable in February.
As a result, the German-based manufacturers – Volkswagen Group (-2.6 per cent), BMW Group (-1.4 per cent) and Daimler (+4.3 per cent) – all faired better than average.
Ford, which was down 7.9 per cent last month, described the current situation in the EU as “extremely challenging”.
“Industry sales are well below 2011 levels, which itself was a slow year, so we remain very concerned about the market,” Ford of Europe marketing, sales and service vice president Roelant de Waard said.
“There is a clearly a strong need for decisive actions to help bolster consumer confidence and improve demand.”
De Waard’s statement echoed the sentiments of Fiat-Chrysler CEO and European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association president Sergio Marchionne, who last month said that Europe was at a “critical juncture”.
“Europe must counter the economic headwind with a strong industrial policy to underpin Europe’s manufacturing base,” Marchionne said.
“The pillars of economic growth and of future prosperity must be strengthened to secure the future of Europe and its citizens.”
Marchionne forecasts a challenging period ahead for Europe and its automotive industry, suggesting the “most optimistic forecast” was that new vehicle sales remained flat through 2014.