European Car Sales Shift Down in September


New car sales in Europe were slightly down in September and virtually flat over the nine months, data showed on Tuesday, as consumers remained cautious despite low interest rates amid a paucity of new car models.

European car registrations slipped 1.5 percent in September compared to a year ago and were 0.7 percent higher over the first nine months, the ACEA carmakers' association said.

It said the September decline was influenced by one less working day than in 2006.

"For us the year remains on a slight negative course, we see the full year down by 0.6 percent," said a car analyst at Natixis in France, who declined to be named.

"Consumers remain reluctant due to economic uncertainties and there haven't really been any major new car model releases," he added.

While sales fell 2.1 percent in western Europe, sales rose by 9.5 percent in new EU member states.

German registrations fell by 11 percent compared to a year ago due to a rush to buy in 2006 ahead of an increase in Value Added Tax that started in January 2007.

Spain suffered a 7.7 percent drop in September and Italy was flat, while France and the United Kingdom posted increases.

ACEA did not offer an explanation for the figures but they confirm a trend of a sluggish to negative development in main European markets and big growth in eastern countries.

New Models in 2008

Carmakers are busy launching new models to boost their sales but this will only start to have an impact in 2008. Most anticipate the main growth to come from outside western Europe.

French automaker Renault said on Tuesday its world-wide group vehicle sales slipped 2.8 percent in September but were up 6.4 percent in the third quarter.

It said it expected worldwide sales of its vehicles to rise over the entire last quarter of 2007, with growth quickening towards the year-end, enabling it to achieve its objective of a slight increase in full-year sales for 2007.

In Europe, third-quarter Renault sales were stable at 354,919 units sold, giving it a market share of 8.2 percent.

Renault group sales in September totaled 125,496 units, a decline of 6.5 percent, for a market share of 7.7 percent.

The group said Twingo II, on the market since mid-June in France, Italy and Slovenia, sold 25,359 units and was recently also launched in Germany, Austria, the UK and the Netherlands.

The New Laguna, a key model for the company's profit recovery program, is being launched simultaneously in 15 European countries in October and its sales will become apparent in the fourth quarter only.

Germany's Volkswagen said on Monday worldwide deliveries at its core Volkswagen brand rose 7.6 percent last month to 327,000 vehicles. The automaker added it was well on course for a sales record of more than 3.5 million VW brand vehicles this year.

Fiat Group, which recently launched a new '500', posted a 7.3 percent rise in nine month sales in Europe to 964,938 units.

Volkswagen remained number one in Europe but its market share slipped to 19.6 percent from 19.8 percent over the first nine months. Number two, PSA Peugeot Citroen was stable at 13 percent while Ford edged up slightly to 10.7 percent from 10.5 percent.

The biggest percentage sales rise over the nine months was for Honda Motor, up 14.9 percent to 249,425 units.