It's an old trick in Germany and some other European countries, too: When demand tumbles, dealers and automakers make their numbers by registering unsold vehicles in their own name.
Dealers use the stratagem to engineer customer discounts by selling self-registered new cars as used models. They also self-register to meet factory sales quotas. And carmakers do it to buff up their sales reports.
Now, with Europe's sales slumping, self-registering is back in a big way, says ZDK, Germany's auto dealers association. Germany is considered a rare bright spot for car sales in Europe, but sales fell by 4.8 percent in May, to 289,977. And ZDK says the industry is artificially pumping up the volume at record levels -- and argues that it's very unhealthy.
"These cars then are pushed into the market as 'young used cars' and have an impact then on the pricing of both used cars as well as new ones," ZDK said. "This poses an additional challenge for retailers in an increasingly competitive environment."
Registrations by carmakers and dealers accounted for nearly 30 percent of the German new-car market through April, the association said. ZDK President Robert Rademacher has said carmakers and dealers normally account for only 15 percent of the market.