Ford, GM and Fiat hit hard as European auto sales fall 10% in Feb.
Photo credit: BLOOMBERG
Ford Motor Co., General Motors and Fiat were the automakers worst hit as European passenger car registrations fell 10 percent to 829,359 in February.
The region's deepening recession continued to deter customers from buying cars despite steep discounting.
"This is as lousy as expected," said Gaetan Toulemonde, an analyst at Deutsche Bank AG in Paris. "We won't see any sign of recovery before the second half."
Ford's sales in the EU and EFTA countries were down 21 percent last month, according to figures released by industry association ACEA today.
The company is forecasting a loss of $2 billion in Europe for 2013.
Ford said its sales have been hit by production stoppages at its factory in Genk, Belgium, which is due to close next year.
"Our sales in the first two months of the year were significantly affected by the lack of consistent supply of the Mondeo, S-Max and Galaxy," Ford of Europe's marketing and sales head, Roelant de Waard, said in a statement. All three vehicles are built in Genk, where production restarted on Monday after workers agreed to severance terms.
"We have strong demand for these vehicles and will now move quickly to fill orders and meet the demand," de Waard said.
GM's European sales were down 20 percent with Opel/Vauxhall's volume declining by 15 percent and Chevrolet down 38 percent. Fiat Group posted a 16 percent drop in European sales.
European market leader Volkswagen's sales of its core VW brand fell nearly 10 percent, and sales of its luxury brand Audi fell 3.8 percent.
PSA/Peugeot-Citroen's volume was down 13 percent with Citroen sales falling 18 percent and Peugeot's brand down 8.5 percent. At Renault, group sales fell 8.6 percent with a 15 percent rise at Dacia offsetting a 15 percent drop at the core Renault brand.
Toyota Motor Corp., the world's largest auto manufacturer, sold 7.8 percent fewer cars across Europe last month.
Korean brands Hyundai and Kia, usually a bright spot, gained 1.4 percent and dropped 1.1 percent, respectively.
"Economic and political uncertainties, combined with different carbon dioxide-based vehicle taxation policies across Europe result in a very mixed picture for the car market," Allan Rushforth, senior vice president and chief operating officer of Hyundai's European business, said in a statement.
Tough year ahead
This year is shaping up to be another tough one for mass market carmakers, as consumers in recessionary European economies postpone new-car purchases. Two-month European sales fell 9.3 percent to 1.75 million cars. The decline in January was 8.5 percent, a 17-year low for the month.
For 2013, market forecaster LMC Automotive recently estimated a 3.1 percent drop in western European sales to 11.4 million vehicles, compared with levels of around 12.8 and 13 million in 2011 and 2010, respectively.
"The European new car market remains a tough place to do business. The market in Great Britain remains strong, but the rest of the big five markets are depressed and show no signs of improvement," Gareth Hession, head of research at automotive data providers JATO Dynamics, said in a statement.
Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn is among industry leaders saying governments may need to consider reviving incentives to encourage trade-ins of older cars for newer vehicles.
Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne, who holds the ACEA's rotating presidency, has countered that "natural" demand is preferable.
Four of Europe's five biggest automotive markets shrank last month, with the steepest plunge in Italy at 17 percent. Deliveries in Germany dropped 11 percent, compared with an 8.6 percent decline in January. A bright spot was the UK, where sales rose 7.9 percent.
Dealers in Germany reduced car prices by an average 11.7 percent last month, versus 11.5 percent a year earlier, with discounting at Fiat widening to 16.5 percent of the list price from 12.7 percent, according to Autohaus PulsSchlag trade magazine. Peugeot, Citroen and Renault's combined average price cut in Germany was 13.5 percent in February, it said.
Reuters and Bloomberg contributed to this report
You can reach Paul McVeigh at email@example.com.