European Car Sales Decline Most Since October 2010

European car sales dropped the most in more than a year, led by Renault SA (RNO) and PSA Peugeot Citroen (UG) as consumers shied away from purchases amid a weak economy.

Registrations in February fell 9.2 percent from a year earlier to 923,381 vehicles, the fifth consecutive monthly drop, Brussels- based European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association, or ACEA, said today in a statement. The decline was the steepest since a 16 percent drop in October 2010. Two-month sales fell 7.8 percent to 1.93 million vehicles.

Sales in France, Europe’s second-biggest market after Germany, plummeted 20 percent, while deliveries in Italy, its third-biggest, plunged 19 percent. Toyota Motor Corp. (7203) and Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW) are predicting a contraction of about 5 percent in Europe this year, the fifth straight annual decline, as the sovereign-debt crisis prompts consumers to rein in spending.

“The French manufacturers are struggling because the French economy is weaker than it was a year ago, and Fiat is being hit by the very weak Italian market,” said Jonathon Poskitt, head of European sales forecasting at LMC Automotive in Oxford. “The premium brands like BMW and Audi are holding up fairly well, partly because the German economy, where they operate strongly, is outperforming most of western Europe.”

Carmaker Consolidation Seen

Renault Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn said March 6 he expects more consolidation among carmakers as “nobody can afford alone the amount of investment required in this industry.” European sales by Boulogne-Billancourt, France-based Renault tumbled 24 percent to 86,402 cars, according to the ACEA.

Peugeot, Europe’s second-biggest carmaker after Volkswagen AG (VOW), announced plans Feb. 29 to team up with General Motors Co. (GM) in a bid to turn around its loss-making operations. The Paris-based carmaker’s sales in Europe fell 17 percent to 118,381 vehicles.

Renault fell as much as 1.7 percent and was down 1.5 percent at 42.38 euros at 9:02 a.m. local time in Paris, while Peugeot declined 0.4 percent to 13.06 euros.

Fiat

Fiat, whose mass-market brands lost about 500 million euros in the region last year, is looking for a partner in Europe to cut costs and share technology as it doesn’t see a recovery in the market before 2014. Fiat’s European sales dropped 17 percent to 66,249 autos.

European sales at Volkswagen, the region’s biggest carmaker, fell 2.1 percent to 220,799 vehicles, including a 1.2 percent decline at the company’s Audi brand.

Daimler AG (DAI), whose Mercedes-Benz division is the world’s third-biggest luxury-vehicle maker after BMW and Audi, posted the biggest gain among the major European-based carmakers, with sales rising 5.2 percent to 44,959 vehicles. BMW fell 0.3 percent to 49,722 autos.

Registrations in Germany, Europe’s largest auto market accounting for almost one in four cars sold in the region, was unchanged at 224,318 registrations. It was the only major market not to decline.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ola Kinnander in Stockholm at okinnander@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chad Thomas at cthomas16@bloomberg.net

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