2007 European Sales Are a Tale of Two Continents
Or perhaps, a tale of two distinct parts of one continent.
By Chris Haak
According to ACEA, the European automakers’ association, in 2007, auto sales in Europe were more or less flat – up 1.1% overall (from 15,782,959 to 15,958,871). But the real story is the drastic contrast between how automakers fared in western Europe against how they did in the developing markets in eastern Europe.
Auto sales in western Europe grew just 0.2% – but made up about 93% of the total European vehicle market. Germany is the largest new car market, but saw its sales drop by 9.2%, while the second-largest market, Italy, saw a 7.1% sales growth. Rounding out the top three was the UK, where sales grew 2.5%. Sales in Germany were hurt by consumer uncertainty about possible CO2 taxes, while they were helped in the UK by private demand for diesels and small cars, and in Italy by government incentives.
In eastern Europe, rising personal wealth in countries such as Poland, Romania, and the Czech Republic led to a 14.5% increase in new vehicle registrations in eastern Europe. The fastest growing eastern European country’s auto sales in 2007 was Latvia, at 26.8% growth (but a low number in overall sales), followed by Romania, at a healthy 26.3% clip. In fact, Romania passed Sweden, Austria and Greece in 2007 to move from the 12th spot to the 8th spot. Rounding out the top three eastern European nations in terms of sales growth was Poland, at a healthy 22.9% sales growth.
For manufacturers, there was both good news and bad news. Volkswagen AG (which includes VW, Audi, Seat, Skoda, Bentley, Lamborghini and others) is the largest automaker in Europe, but saw its sales fall by 1.1%. The second-largest automaker in Europe is PSA Group, which includes Peugeot and Citroen. Its sales went up by 0.6%. The rest of the top six companies were Ford, GM, Renault and Fiat, respectively. Fiat led the large companies in sales growth at 7.1%.
To me, there are a few takeaways from this data. One is that government actions can clearly cause harm or benefit to auto sales (Such as Germany’s sales declines and Italy’s increases), so government officials need to be aware that their actions will have a real impact on both the economy overall and the livelihood of those who depend on their auto industry for employment. Another point is that although eastern Europe’s sales grew far faster than western Europe’s did, western Europe is by far driving the auto industry in the near term, with over 90% of all sales in Europe. Whether the eastern European automobile market continues to grow briskly will depend on a number of factors, but having the appropriate vehicle mix for the stage of development that these former Iron Curtain nations are in should go a long way toward continued momentum.
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