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European car sales sink to 20-year low in H1

Milan, July 16, 2013

European car sales slumped to their lowest six-months total in 20 years in the first half of 2013, with a 6.3 percent drop in June suggesting no let up for an industry battered by overcapacity and weak demand.

European automakers have been suffering for months from the effects of record unemployment and government austerity measures in the euro zone, with some such as Peugeot seeking to close factories and lay off workers to counter heavy losses.

Italy's Fiat saw the biggest drop in sales among major manufacturers last month, suffering a 13.6 percent slide, followed by a 10.9 percent fall at France's Peugeot, while Ford bucked the trend with a 6.9 percent rise.

"Even if there is a recovery in the second half of the year, it's hard to see how it could be strong enough to offset the bad results we've registered so far this year," said Quynh-Nhu Huynh, economics and statistics director at the Association of European Carmakers (ACEA), which compiled the figures.

Norbert Reithofer, chief executive of Germany's BMW , said in a newspaper interview on Tuesday he did not expect a rebound in western European markets until at least the middle of next year.

ACEA said car registrations in European Union countries plus those in the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) fell 6.7 percent in the first half year to 6,436,743, the lowest six monthly total since 1993.

Sales in June were the lowest for that month since 1996.

Nonetheless, some analysts were encouraged that sales fell at a slower pace than in many previous months.

"The market has bottomed out, for sure," said Pierluigi Bellini, head of sales forecasts for EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) at IHS Automotive. "We can't talk about a recovery this year, but we see smaller monthly declines going forward."

The German market, which had resisted much of last year's slump, shrank 4.7 percent in June, while sales in France and Italy fell 8.4 and 5.5 percent respectively as unemployment and austerity measures curb consumer spending.

Ferdinando Uliano, national secretary of the Italian metalworkers' union FIM-CISL, said high taxes and insurance costs were stifling demand and called on the government to act.

"What is the government waiting for to enact measures to support investment in this key sector?" Uliano said in a statement.

Sales in Britain, in contrast, remained robust, notching up a 16th straight month of gains with a 13.4 percent increase.

Among luxury carmakers, Mercedes posted a 2 percent gain, powered by new models, while the BMW brand fell 7.7 percent and Volkswagen's Audi dropped 8.9 percent. – Reuters




Tags: Mercedes | Milan | automakers | Peugeot |

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