Registrations in the region fell 1.1 percent from a year earlier to 1.07 million vehicles in January, the Brussels-based European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association said today in a statement. Fiat’s European sales dropped 20 percent, Toyota’s declined 11 percent and Ford’s dropped 9.4 percent.
Volume carmakers in Europe are under pressure to cut prices as falling sales lead to an oversupply. Buyers are holding back following the expiration of government programs introduced during the recession to encourage purchases of fuel-efficient cars or trade-ins of older models for scrap.
“Vehicle markets are still coming under pressure for a variety of reasons: payback from scrapping schemes, doubts about economies, job-security worries,” Ian Fletcher, an IHS Automotive analyst in London, said before the figures were released. Ireland and Romania are the only European countries still offering incentives, he said.
Sales declined in three of the region’s five biggest markets, dropping 24 percent in Spain, 21 percent in Italy and 12 percent in the U.K. Demand gained 17 percent in Germany and 8.2 percent in France.
Fiat is seeking to improve productivity and capacity utilization to restore profitability in its home market of Italy. The Turin-based carmaker’s plans to present seven new products this year may be “too aggressive” as demand across Europe may remain “structurally weak,” Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne said yesterday. He predicted full-year Italian car sales will total 1.8 million units, the lowest since 1996.
Ford, the only major U.S. automaker to avoid bankruptcy in 2009, reported a 79 percent decline in fourth-quarter profit as its European division had an unexpected loss and costs rose for introducing models such as the Focus compact car and Explorer sport-utility vehicle.
Toyota has continued to issue recalls for various defects as the world’s biggest carmaker aims to regain consumer trust following record recalls in 2010 for problems linked to unintended acceleration. The company said last month it would repair 1.7 million vehicles globally.
Volkswagen AG, Europe’s biggest carmaker, has benefited from rebounding sales in its home market of Germany as the region’s largest economy grows. Wolfsburg-based VW recorded a 6 percent European sales gain last month to 237,212 vehicles. VW’s market share increased to 22.1 percent from 20.6 percent.
All three German luxury carmakers also bucked the regional market decline, in part because fewer of their customers took up the earlier sales incentives that were focused on volume models.
Sales by Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, the world’s largest luxury-car manufacturer, jumped 20 percent to 56,165 cars. Munich-based BMW is introducing a revamped X3 sport-utility vehicle and debuted a convertible version of its 6-Series coupe earlier this year.
Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz and Smart brands recorded a 14 percent jump in sales to 46,769 registrations. Mercedes-Benz has revamped the SLK hard-top roadster and is upgrading the C-Class, its best-selling model, with a new interior. Registrations by VW’s luxury Audi division rose 3.6 percent to 47,916 vehicles. Audi is introducing a new version of the A6 sedan in March.
European sales by Paris-based PSA Peugeot Citroen, the region’s second-largest carmaker, fell 3.6 percent in January to 145,472 vehicles, while registrations by French rival Renault SA declined 4.8 percent to 110,132.
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