European Car Market Contraction Sharpens in September

Europe's new car market shrank at the fastest pace in the past 12 months in September, leaving nearly all major brands nursing double-digit declines as a deepening balance sheet recession in the euro zone took its toll on carmakers.

European Car Market Contraction Sharpens in September
Source: Volkswagen of America

According to data published on Tuesday by Brussels-based industry association ACEA, new car registrations in the European Union dropped 10.8 percent last month to 1.10 million vehicles with the UK the only major market to post material growth.

German industry group VDA blamed part of the sharp drop on two fewer working days in September versus the year-earlier month, saying in a separate statement that an increase in value-added taxes in Spain acted as an additional drag on demand.

"The continuing discussion about the debt crisis has also left its mark on Germany," auto industry forecaster R.L. Polk & Co. said in a research note late on Monday, predicting western European new car sales would drop by 1 million to just 11.76 million vehicles this year.

"Even assuming that the situation in the EU calms down, western European new car registrations should decline slightly (to 11.63 million) in 2013," it added.

Until September, the Volkswagen brand had largely been able to gain market share at the expense of its mass market peers. Last month, however, it suffered a decline of 13.8 percent and lost some ground to competitors.

Ford and Opel, Europe's second and third largest brand after VW, respectively, fared no better. Their sales fell by 15 percent and 16 percent.

Renault had a near 33 percent drop in September, ceding its title
as the largest French brand that month to rival Peugeot. The latter managed to grab share to become the fourth largest in Europe in September.

Coming in close behind was BMW with 5.8 percent of the market. The German premium brand even saw an absolute gain in volumes with a near 11 percent increase in Europe, well ahead of the pack in September.

Hyundai and Kia continued to slowly improve sales in a tough market, growing 3-4 percent last month.

Not all Korean-made cars enjoyed a solid September, however. GM's Chevrolet brand, which imports the bulk of its models from the U.S. carmaker's Korean subsidiary, suffered a 20 percent drop in volumes.