VW lags as rivals' Europe sales accelerate

The problems of the auto sector
The problems of the auto sector

Volkswagen was left behind in the dust as its European rivals' sales accelerated in 2015, latest industry figures show, in the latest sign the emissions scandal continues to hurt the embattled German carmaker.

VW, which is scrambling to regain trust around the world following news that it had cheated on emissions tests on its diesel vehicles, saw its sales increase 4.7 percent in December on the same month last year and 6.1 percent for the whole of 2015, compared to the previous year, according to car registration figures from the European Automobile Manufacturers Association published Friday.

Michele Tantussi | Getty Images

Meanwhile, domestic rival BMW recorded a 19.9 percent increase for December and 12.4 percent hike for the whole of the year. In France Renault-Nissan enjoyed a monthly increase of 27.9 percent and a 2015 figure of 9.2 percent. The carmaker that enjoyed the best month was Mazda, with a December increase of 52 percent.

In September, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that VW had cheated on U.S. air pollution tests by installing sophisticated software known as "defeat devices" that could sense when emissions testing was in progress. This allowed emissions controls to run full-tilt during official testing, but emitted 10 to 40 times the legal amount while on the road.

VW has had a difficult start to 2016 as it attempts to solve the problems of last year's emissions scandal. This week, California's environmental watchdog, the California Air Resources Board, rejected a VW plan to fix 2.0 liter diesel cars with a software patch, Reuters reported. The state said VW's proposed fix was inadequate and that it would continue its investigation as well as talks with VW to find a fix.

Renault says factories probed, no defeat device found so far

Fallout from the VW scandal is still being felt across the European car industry. At one point on Thursday, Renault shares lost over a fifth of their value on speculation that a police raid on its office meant that it had also cheated on emissions tests.

However, the company said Thursday that while some of its models had failed tests, there was no evidence of the so-called defeat devices. Renault's shares recovered some ground Friday morning, up 2.9 percent in morning trade.

ACEA figures show that overall in the 28-country European Union, car registrations were up 16.6 percent for December and 9.3 percent for the year.

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