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European car sales rebounded in May as economy buoyed buyers

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European car sales bounced back in May after a month-earlier slump, as a brightening economic outlook and political stability in France helped the sector get back on the recovery path.

[BERLIN] European car sales bounced back in May after a month-earlier slump, as a brightening economic outlook and political stability in France helped the sector get back on the recovery path.

Industrywide registrations rose 7.7 per cent to 1.43 million vehicles last month after plunging 6.8 per cent in April, the Brussels-based European Automobile Manufacturers' Association, or ACEA, said Friday in a statement. Demand was led by Fiat models such as the 500 and Panda city cars as well as Mercedes-Benz vehicles like the revamped E-Class sedan.

Consumer confidence in the euro zone is near its highest in a decade, as the victory of Emmanuel Macron ended a tense French presidential election and Germany's economy grew at the fastest pace in six years. That helped boost demand across mainland Europe, even as strife over the UK's exit from the common market continues to weigh on consumers.

German car sales posted the strongest gain among large economies, with a 13 percent jump in registrations. Sales in France increased 8.9 per cent, while demand in Italy rose 8.2 per cent. The UK, which has been hit by political squabbles ahead of Brexit, a weak pound and a new vehicle-excise tax that took effect in April, saw deliveries drop 8.5 per cent in May after a 20 per cent plunge in April.

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VW Gains Market leader Volkswagen AG, whose sales have withstood a stream of negative news in recent months tied to its emissions-cheating scandal, delivered 348,755 autos in May, 8.4 per cent more than a year earlier. That widened its market share to 24.3 per cent for the month from 24.2 per cent a year earlier, the first time the German automaker has drawn customers away from rivals since December.

Volkswagen's main challenger PSA Group, which will control about 16 per cent of the region's market after completing a planned acquisition of General Motors Co's Opel division, lost share after sales rose 4.8 per cent. Opel demand slumped 1.8 per cent.

VW shares were little changed at 131.45 euros at 9.51am in Frankfurt trading. They've clawed back about 40 per cent after almost halving when the manufacturer admitted to rigging its diesel engines in September 2015. PSA climbed 1.3 per cent to 17.90 euros in Paris.

Car sales are set for an eventual slowdown after three years of growth, with western European auto sales projected to rise 2.9 per cent in 2017, compared with a 4.3 per cent gain through the first five months of the year, according to LMC Automotive.

The ACEA compiles numbers from the EU's 28 member countries, excluding Malta, plus Switzerland, Norway and Iceland.

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