European Auto Sales April 2013: First Sales Increase In 18 Months For Troubled Market

Volkswagen emblems (European auto market)
Emblems of the Volkswagen Golf VII in a plant in Wolfsburg, Germany. Reuters

European consumers bought more cars last month than in any month since September 2011, fuelled largely by ongoing higher demand in the U.K., Germany and Spain.

The European Automobile Manufacturers Association said Friday that automobile registrations –- the key indicator for sales in the region -- increased 1.7 percent in April compared to the same month last year, with British sales leading the way with a 14.8 percent increase.

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Other positive performers for the month were Germany, with a 3.8 percent increase, and Spain, where sales rose 10.8 percent.

Poor performances among the largest auto markets in the 27-member European Union included Italy, with a decline of 10.8 percent, and France, which saw sales retreat 5.3 percent.

This was the first region-wide year-over-year increase in sales since September 2011.

So -- is the European auto market, which has been hit hard by the ongoing region-wide sovereign debt crisis, on a rebound? Probably not.

“The region counted on average of two more working days compared to the same month last year, which would account for the increase,” the association said in its monthly report.

For one thing, the U.K. has been the only market in the region that has seen positive growth in the first four months of the year. While Germany and Spain saw a considerable uptick last month, for the first third of the year, sales in both of those countries are down 8.5 percent and 6.7 percent, respectively.

Regional auto giants have been hit hard by the continent's economic straits; to make up for this, they are focusing on global sales in China and the United States to offset steep declines on their home turf.

Last month Daimler AG (FRA:DAI), the Stuttgart, Germany-based maker of Mercedes and Freightliner 18 wheelers, reported a 60 percent dive in net profit in the first quarter and said its 2013 earnings would be lower than last year’s.

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