EUROPE IS NOT a happy place at the moment. With Portugal, Ireland, Iceland, Greece and Spain – the so-called PIIGS – teetering on financial collapse and with little hope of meeting their massive sovereign debt obligations without significant and ongoing support from the EU's stronger economies, consumer confidence is again heading south.
Add the removal of the car scrappage schemes which, arguably, kept a number of European manufacturers afloat by stimulating sales through the global financial crisis, and the result is new car sales taking a swan-dive.
Sales for April across Europe have slid 6.7 percent compared to April 2009. This figure, while bad in itself, is amplified by the fact that 2009 was a pretty dismal year.
And the uncertain outlook is not expected to improve. “Wider economic uncertainties across the Eurozone will do nothing to stimulate consumer demand in the months ahead and we expect this combination of factors to force a continued slide in overall new car sales.” David Di Girolamo, Head of automotive intelligence providers, JATO Consult, said.
Among the manufacturers there are winners – a few – and losers – a lot.
According to sales figures from across the EU supplied by JATO, Volkswagen's Golf, though down 3.0 percent, has reclaimed the top spot in sales. It has displaced the Fiesta which is now in second spot, down a thumping 27.0 percent.
In third place, is Renault's Clio, up an impressive 36.1 percent and edging the Polo into fourth.
The top ten models for April 2010 (information supplied by JATO Dynamics) are:
Of the manufacturers, Renault has been the winner, partly thanks to a resilient home market: up 17.2 percent in sales. Renault has now moved into second place for manufacturers behind Volkswagen which, although still number one, has dropped 7.3 percent.
Ford has been the big loser, slipping 19.4 percent and now in fourth place behind Volkwagen, Renault and Peugeot.
Fiat also has taken a hammering, down 28.6 percent for April 2010 against April last year.
The top ten brands for April 2010 are:
Across Europe, according to JATO, even the major markets that are still growing are doing so at a slower rate since the end of the 'scrappage schemes'.
Germany, still Europe's largest market, is all-but becalmed, down 25.5 percent year-to-date against 2009, and down 31.7 percent in April.
Italy, Austria, Hungary are all down; France is up marginally, and the UK up by 11.5 percent.
Interestingly, there is one very happy place, or so it would appear. Despite its dire debt position, sales in Ireland are up for April 2010. And by how much? One or two percent... surely not more? Try 95.4 percent. It must be the Guinness; or maybe its so bad that the corpse that used to be the Irish economy is starting to look good again.
I'm told this can happen if you stare a corpse for too long (“Ah Pat, y' never looked this good when you were alive, that's certain.” Luckily this correspondent is Irish.)
Spain and Portugal, more of the PIIGS, are also up: increasing sales by 39.8 and 39.0 percent respectively. At least Greece has the good grace to be down; sliding 14.3 percent against April last year.
Of course, there may be a simple explanation for Spain, Portugal and Ireland's performance: if you're heading down the gurgler, you should at least try to do it in a nice new car.
(Tables and statistics supplied by JATO Dynamics)