European Car Sales Rebounded in May as Economy Buoyed Buyers

  • Deliveries jumped 7.7% as Fiat city cars, Mercedes sedans led
  • Pace of growth set to slow through the rest of the year

European car sales bounced back in May after a month-earlier slump, as a brightening economic outlook and political stability in France helped the sector get back on the recovery path.

Industrywide registrations rose 7.7 percent to 1.43 million vehicles last month after plunging 6.8 percent in April, the Brussels-based European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association, or ACEA, said Friday in a statement. Demand was led by Fiat models such as the 500 and Panda city cars as well as Mercedes-Benz vehicles like the revamped E-Class sedan.

Consumer confidence in the euro zone is near its highest in a decade, as the victory of Emmanuel Macron ended a tense French presidential election and Germany’s economy grew at the fastest pace in six years. That helped boost demand across mainland Europe, even as strife over the U.K.’s exit from the common market continues to weigh on consumers.

German car sales posted the strongest gain among large economies, with a 13 percent jump in registrations. Sales in France increased 8.9 percent, while demand in Italy rose 8.2 percent. The U.K., which has been hit by political squabbles ahead of Brexit, a weak pound and a new vehicle-excise tax that took effect in April, saw deliveries drop 8.5 percent in May after a 20 percent plunge in April.

VW Gains

Market leader Volkswagen AG, whose sales have withstood a stream of negative news in recent months tied to its emissions-cheating scandal, delivered 348,755 autos in May, 8.4 percent more than a year earlier. That widened its market share to 24.3 percent for the month from 24.2 percent a year earlier, the first time the German automaker has drawn customers away from rivals since December.

Volkswagen’s main challenger PSA Group, which will control about 16 percent of the region’s market after completing a planned acquisition of General Motors Co.’s Opel division, lost share after sales rose 4.8 percent. Opel demand slumped 1.8 percent.

VW shares were little changed at 131.45 euros at 9:51 a.m. in Frankfurt trading. They’ve clawed back about 40 percent after almost halving when the manufacturer admitted to rigging its diesel engines in September 2015. PSA climbed 1.3 percent to 17.90 euros in Paris.

Car sales are set for an eventual slowdown after three years of growth, with western European auto sales projected to rise 2.9 percent in 2017, compared with a 4.3 percent gain through the first five months of the year, according to LMC Automotive.

The ACEA compiles numbers from the EU’s 28 member countries, excluding Malta, plus Switzerland, Norway and Iceland.

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