December sales slump shows fragile nature of market recovery
Total car sales for 2010 were down for three of Europe's "Big Five" markets compared to 2009: France down 0.7%, Italy down 9.2%, and Germany down 23.4%, while Great Britain and Spain saw marginal growth with an increase of 1.8% and 3.1% respectively. With sales and deliveries drying up following the end of Scrappage schemes a few months previously, only Germany within this group ended the year on a high, with a sales increase of 6.9% for December.
Sales in Central and Eastern Europe for 2010 performed well, with the majority of the markets in this region showing positive growth compared to the previous year. For example, Lithuania and Latvia ended 2010 up 6.1% and 18.6% for the year respectively in stark contrast to 2009's figures, which saw them end that year down 72.9% and 66.2%. The strong performance of these markets can be largely attributed to the fact that they had a very poor 2009 and were, in the main, not propped up by Scrappage schemes. This means that their recovery from the recession has appeared quicker but is from a lower base.
Despite selling 13.7% fewer Golfs in 2010 than in 2009, Volkswagen remained Europe's best selling brand with sales of 492,556 units over the year.
'It's not surprising that sales for 2010 are down compared to 2009 as these figures were stimulated by government incentives and scrappage schemes,' said Gareth Hession, vice-president research.
Mr Hession continued: '2011 will be another challenging year for the industry given ongoing government cuts across Europe and a continued lack of consumer confidence, especially for big-ticket items. It is concerning that a number of markets saw a significant fall in sales in December, reiterating the fragile nature of the recovery. We expect manufacturers to be very active throughout the year, deploying a range of strategies to support their sales performance. Using our Total Cost of Ownership and Incentives data it will be very interesting to see how these strategies develop and what impact they have.'