European Car Sales Start 2018 With 6.8% January Gain

Corrected
  • Most automakers post gains as registrations total 1.29 million
  • SUVs from VW’s Skoda, Fiat Chrysler’s Jeep help propel growth

Employees work on the Volkswagen e-Golf electric automobile assembly line inside the Volkswagen AG (VW) factory in Wolfsburg, Germany.

Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi

Europe’s car market opened the year with a 6.8 percent sales upswing in January, building on the 10-year high reached in 2017 as the region’s economy expanded.

Registrations for the month advanced to 1.29 million vehicles, the Brussels-based European Automobile Manufacturers Association said Thursday in a statement. Almost all the companies posted gains, led by the largest, Germany’s Volkswagen AG.

Brand Rankings

Volkswagen group sales were up 8.7% from year-earlier period

Source: European Automobile Manufacturers Association

*EU+EFTA countries

European consumers are growing fonder of the sport utility vehicles that have long been favored in North America. Volkswagen’s 8.7 percent sales increase was lifted by its Czech nameplate Skoda, which this week attributed its success to the modestly priced Kodiaq SUV and the smaller Karoq, which began selling in the second half of last year.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV sold almost 70 percent more Jeeps, of which it makes the Renegade in Italy. The Italian-American company plans a global expansion of the brand, a cornerstone of its effort to double profit in five years.

A growing European economy is helping to spur sales. While it benefited from an extra selling day or two in most markets compared with January 2017, the month marked the strongest January for western Europe since before the global recession, according to analysts at LMC Automotive.

Flashing Yellow

LMC predicts slowing Western European auto-sales despite a strong start to 2018

Source: LMC Automotive

Two of western Europe’s largest markets led the sales gains. Germany was up 12 percent, while Spain advanced 20 percent. The U.K., where demand has contracted since the 2016 Brexit vote, dropped 6.3 percent. The pace of expansion isn’t sustainable, LMC researchers said.

“Notwithstanding exceptionally strong results in some markets in January, there is still limited scope for growth in Germany, and a relatively weak U.K. market will constrain regional growth” for the full year, LMC said.

(Corrects first chart to add missing Ford data, and location of Jeep production in story published Feb. 15.)
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