VW Loses European Market Share as Scandal Effect Lingers

  • Carmaker’s October sales fell 1.8% vs. market’s 0.3% drop
  • Industrywide demand slowing after three-year delivery climb

Volkswagen's Place in U.S. Economy and Trade

Volkswagen AG lost market share in Europe for the 14th straight month since the emissions-cheating scandal erupted in September 2015, as competitors took advantage of the German automaker’s tarnished image to attract buyers.

Volkswagen accounted for 24.9 percent of the region’s car sales in October, compared with 25.3 percent a year earlier, the Brussels-based European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association, or ACEA, said in a statement on Thursday. Industrywide European registrations slipped 0.3 percent last month to 1.14 million vehicles, burdened by one less selling day. Volkswagen underperformed with a 1.8 percent decrease across the group’s brands.

While Europe’s biggest carmaker has made strides in emerging from the crisis, it still faces criminal investigations and hundreds of investor lawsuits after admitting to rigging diesel cars to cheat on emissions tests. The revelations harmed the company’s reputation for quality, helping Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, Daimler AG and BMW AG gain an advantage. Volkswagen’s 10-month European market share narrowed to 24 percent from 25.1 percent a year earlier.

European car sales have been increasing since 2013, rebounding from a two-decade low in the aftermath of the financial crisis. Growth has cooled in recent months as concerns about the U.K.’s exit from the European Union cloud the region’s economic outlook. LMC Automotive projects growth in Western Europe will slow to 1.3 percent in 2017 from 5.7 percent this year. Industrywide European sales for the January-October period rose 6.9 percent to 12.7 million vehicles.

Volkswagen shares fell 0.2 percent to 117.60 euros as of 9:26 a.m. in Frankfurt trading. The stock has lost 27 percent since the scandal broke, valuing the company at 62 billion euros ($66 billion)

Fiat Gains

Despite uncertainty, Brexit has yet to have a major impact on U.K. auto demand, with registrations rising 1.4 percent in October and increasing 2.5 percent so far this year. Meanwhile, October sales in Germany, the region’s biggest market, slumped 5.6 percent. The ACEA compiles numbers from the European Union’s 28 member countries, excluding Malta, plus Switzerland, Norway and Iceland.

Fiat Chrysler posted a 6.6 percent gain, boosted by rising demand for its Jeep brand. Daimler’s registrations climbed 6.1 percent as the German manufacturer expands its lineup of Mercedes-Benz sport utility vehicles. BMW sales rose 3.5 percent on a lift from the Mini brand.

Outside of Europe, Volkswagen is trying to sell more cars by tapping Chinese appetite for German brands. The manufacturer plans to deliver as many as 400,000 electric vehicles per year in the world’s biggest auto market by 2020, as regulators there consider legislation that requires companies to sell a minimum number of eco-friendly vehicles.

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