Tim O'Brien | Jan 20, 2009

Automotive data company, JATO Dynamics, today reported a decline of 7.8 percent, or 1,227,941 sales, in the European new car market during 2008. Total new car sales for Europe during 2008 staggered to a total of 14,459,714.

According to David Di Girolamo, Business Manager for JATO, "…that percentage (7.8 percent decline) represents in excess of a million new cars – the output of more than one manufacturing plant."

More alarmingly, as an indicator of the likely trend in 2009, the sales decline occurred exclusively post-May 2008 – the first four months of the year recording strong growth.

From May, when the global economic crisis began to take its toll, it was all downhill for car makers.

In fact, comparing figures for the second half (July – December) of 2008 to the same period in 2007, shows an even more marked decline. Comparing these two half-years shows that the market fell 14.5 percent.

If that remains the trend, on JATO's analysis a 14.5 percent decline is equivalent to more than the output of two vehicle manufacturing plants. Little wonder then, the rolling announcements of shut-downs and reduced shifts coming from Europe and the UK.

In December alone the European new car market fell by 17.8 percent (or 196,337 units) when compared to December 2007. With some feeling the pinch more than others.

2008-vw-golf-v

Winners (not many), Losers (lots)

For the record, Volkswagen, Europe's top-selling brand, bucked the trend and recorded 1.5 million sales in 2008, down just 3.6 percent on the previous year.

Second place went to Ford who held 2008 sales to just a 5.5 percent decline on 2007, recording 1.2 million total sales. Opel/Vauxhall, in third place, recorded 1.1 million sales, but down a troubling 14.2 percent.

Although not in the top ten, Lancia posted a 7.2 percent increase in December '08 thanks to the introduction of the new Delta, while Subaru also recorded a 2.3 percent increase in December, largely due to the addition of a diesel option to the range. Subaru, in fact, had a good year, recording a 9.3 percent increase in sales over 2007.

Jaguar was also one of the few highlights, recording an 11.5 percent increase in 2008.

The rest however, in the main, are covered in red; Toyota's 2008 year being an 'annus horribilis' with a 16.7 percent decline in sales.

Top 10 performing brands in the European market in 2008, ranked in sales volume, were: Volkswagen, Ford, Opel/Vauxhall, Renault, Peugeot, Fiat, Citroen, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz and BMW in tenth place.

Top Models By Volume

The Volkswagen Golf led the pack with sales up by 5.3 percent in 2008, achieving in total 50,000 more sales than second-placed competitor, the Peugeot 207. Volkswagen also had the Polo in the top ten at ninth place.

2008-peugeot-207

For the stats nuts among you, top ten vehicles and total sales in 2008 in the European market were: VW Golf, 458,283 sales for 2008; then Peugeot 207 (406,163), Ford Focus (364,638), Opel/Vauxhall Corsa (360,247), Renault Clio (335,548), Ford Fiesta (327,314), Opel/Vauxhall Astra (320,856), Fiat Punto (278,934), VW Polo (275,921) and Audi A4/S4/RS4 (255,474).

Of the top ten, only the Golf increased sales in 2008 over 2007. All others recorded sales declines with the most severe affecting the Astra, down 20.1 percent; the Passat, down 15.8 percent; and the BMW 3-Series, down 14.9 percent.

Of the high performers not in the top ten, most significant was the Audi A4 (and variants S4 and RS4) which recorded an increase in sales for 2008 of 15.9 percent.

For manufacturers, the latter half of 2008 is a period nearly all would like to forget. They probably will – 2009 is likely to eclipse it: things appear to be heading even further down the 's-bend'. That's the problem with powerful trends and stink-ridden economies.

(Information: JATO Consult)