Dismal summer results have put European auto sales into negative territory for the year, wiping out first-quarter gains.
Light-vehicle sales fell 18 percent in July and 12 percent in August in 28 countries, the European manufacturer association ACEA reported last week. Through eight months, sales are off 3 percent to 9.3 million vehicles.
European sales rose modestly in the first quarter, while government incentives enacted in 2009 remained in effect in some countries. But as the incentives came off, sales in each of the next five months declined from the year-earlier period.
For the year, results vary widely by country. Sales fell sharply this summer in the five largest markets, which all introduced government stimulus programs last year. Germany fell 30 percent in July and 27 percent in August.
Germany and Italy are lower for the year. But in Spain and the United Kingdom, where the programs lingered longer, the first eight months remain positive. For example, Spanish sales fell 24 percent in August, after the program ended, but year-to-date sales are up 22 percent. France is up 2 percent through August. Among smaller markets, Denmark, Ireland, Portugal, Sweden, Iceland and Norway have gained more than 30 percent this year. Five other countries have lost 30 percent or more: Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia.
Four of the top 10 auto groups remain positive for the year to date: Renault and PSA Peugeot Citroen, BMW Group and Japan's Nissan.