German car sales down but importers boost market share

Bad Homburg, Germany. Foreign automakers -- led by the Japanese -- increased their German market share over the past six months.

But importers, together with German manufacturers, sold fewer cars in the first half of 2004, compared with the same period last year.

The overall German automobile market was down by 1.7 percent to 1.65 million units. German automakers sold 25,000 units fewer in the first six months of 2004, compared to the first six months of 2003, while importers sold 3,500 cars fewer.

Foreign automakers achieved 35.5 percent market share in Germany in the first half of this year compared to 35.1 percent in the same period 2003.

With 11.8 percent, Japanese manufacturers had the highest share of the import market during the first half of 2004, followed by the French with 11.0 percent. Czech brands represented 2.9 percent and Italian and Korean automakers both reached 2.7 percent.

In former East German states the importers' share rose to 52 percent.

Volker Lange, president of the German Motor Vehicle Importers Association (VDIK), said he believed that the increase in market share for import makes was the result of attractive model ranges and new models.

Importers especially profited from the increased market share of diesel vehicles, which rose to 41.8 percent from 38.7 percent in the first half of 2003.

Lange added: "More than 20 of the brands belonging to the VDIK offer modern diesel autos. Almost every third new registration by imported brands is a diesel vehicle."

He also said that another advantage for importers was that they offered long-term guarantees for new vehicles, unlike most German manufacturers.

Lange also said that an increase in residual values was another reason why both commercial and private customers were buying more imported brands.

The VDIK now expects fewer cars to be sold in Germany in 2004 than it originally forecast. Its prediction is for 3.22 million new registrations instead of 3.35 million units.

Said Lange: "Everyone, us included, overestimated the positive impact the new volume models would have."

Importers expect a slight increase to 3.25 million units in 2005.

Lange said Europe's new block exemption regulations for car sales and repairs have not resulted in the benefits promised by European lawmakers.

Lange said the regulations had done nothing to stimulate the vehicle market nor help consumers.