Mixed results in March 2011 West European Car Sales, says JD Power
German sales for the first quarter were up 13.9%, and while the selling rate dropped back in March after a very strong January and February, the market is certainly heading in the right direction, helped by the lowest unemployment in nearly 20 years and strong consumer and business confidence.
The Italian market suffered last month as reflected by a selling rate just below 1.7 mn units/year. This rounds off a poor first quarter for the market with an average rate of under 1.8 mn units/year. JD Power also said that this indicates that the likelihood of the Italian car market in 2011 outperforming the 2010 result has diminished further.
The Spanish market posted another selling rate in the 830,000-850,000 units/year range in March, the third of the year. Like Italy, unemployment is a major issue in Spain, says JD Power, though the latter country is in a much worse state in this regard. It adds that unfortunately, there is no quick fix for the Spanish economy or car market and so nothing more than a very slow recovery can be hoped for over the next few years.
The French market remained strong in March. JD Power said that it is safe to say that the spillover of registrations relating to the now-finished scrappage incentive scheme is still evident. Given this ongoing distortion, the true underlying level of demand is less clear though with the French economy reasonably well-placed JD Power does not expect the car market to suffer in the same way as its neighbours: Italy and Spain.
And finally the UK market was down again last month, in what is a seasonally strong month due to the registration plate change. Worries over the health of the economy and full impact of the government austerity measures will continue to negatively impact the car market as the year progresses.