Europe will end 18-month sales slump with positive April

Luca Ciferri is Editor of Automotive News Europe.Luca Ciferri is Editor of Automotive News Europe.
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Strong April UK car sales and a solid rebound in Germany last month will help western Europe end 18 consecutive months of year-on-year declines, analysts predict. But market watchers stopped short of saying Europe is on the verge of an extended rebound.

LMC Automotive calculates that April sales grew 2 percent to 1,016,693 units, while the year-to-date total -- 3,932,340 units -- is still 7 percent below the same period last year.

Analysts at R.L. Polk estimates 1,014,152 sales in western Europe for April, resulting in the same figures at LMC, 2 percent growth for the month and a 7 percent decline through April. Official new-car sales figures from industry association ACEA will be released May 17.

While everyone would love it if April's rise was the beginning of an extended turnaround from a slump that began in October 2011, the truth is that last month's rise could be a one-off.

"Drilling down below the headline number reveals that selling days have had a significant impact, with nearly two extra days on average in April 2013 versus April 2012, due partly to Easter," LMC said.

The seasonally adjusted annual rate, or SAAR, which factors in the effects of selling days, shows just a small improvement in April. LMC said the April SAAR was at 11.4 million units for the full year, marginally ahead of March's SAAR of 11.2 million and "still very weak by historical standards."

The full-year prediction for western Europe is a 4 percent decline to 11.27 million units from 11.76 million last year, LMC said.

Polk also estimates sales by brand. Its figures showed impressive April results in Europe for two German premium automakers.

Audi's April sales increased 8 percent to 64,944 units, making it western Europe's fourth-largest brand behind Volkswagen, Ford and No. 3 Renault, which outsold Audi by a little more than 600 units in the month (65,561).

Mercedes-Benz, meanwhile, was the fastest growing brand among the top 10 players with sales up 10 percent to 54,760 units, good enough for sixth place, Polk figures show.

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