The recovery in European car sales slowed down in May as buyers’ concerns about unemployment and the Greek sovereign debt crisis held back demand. Sales were also hit by fewer business days.
Registrations in the EU and EFTA markets increased 1.4 percent to 1.15 million vehicles, industry association ACEA said today in a statement. Five-month sales rose 6.7 percent to 6 million autos.
The May increase was the 21st consecutive month of European car-market expansion, though the growth was the most sluggish since a 1.2 percent increase in November. While the euro zone’s unemployment rate has receded from record highs set two years ago, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said in early June that it remains a concern to policymakers.
The weaker gain also reflected the timing of holidays that left fewer selling days than in May 2014.
“Adjusted for public holidays, the key markets are continuing their gain from a low base,” said Frank Biller, an analyst for LBBW. “There’s no reason to be euphoric, but we do have an unbroken upward trend even with the slowdown in May.”
Bankhaus Metzler analyst Juergen Pieper said: “The ongoing talks on Greece do have an effect on consumers. It doesn’t help sentiment as the potential effect of the country leaving the euro is stoking uncertainty.”
Renault was the only manufacturer among Europe’s five top auto sellers to post group sales growth in the region in May, with a 5.4 percent gain. That compares with a 15 percent jump in April for the carmaker, which has been benefiting from demand for the Captur subcompact SUV.
European deliveries by Volkswagen Group, the regional industry leader, fell 2 percent, with the Audi division posting a 5.9 percent drop. The core VW brand's volume dipped by 1 percent while Seat sales were down 2.9 percent and Skoda's volume declined by 0.5 percent. Porsche sales increased 12 percent.
Second-ranked PSA/Peugeot-Citroen sold 5.2 percent fewer cars with Citroen sales down 5.7 percent and Peugeot down 1.1 percent.
Ford's volume dropped by 0.6 percent while Opel/Vauxhall sales fell by 2.2 percent. Sixth-ranked Fiat Chrysler Automobiles sold 9 percent more cars in Europe thanks to a 7.1 percent gain at Fiat brand and the continued popularity of the Jeep Renegade subcompact SUV.
Among Asian brands, Toyota (down 5.3 percent) and Honda (down 16 percent) were the only automakers whose sales declined. Nissan rose most with volume jumping 14 percent.
- Download PDF, above right, for May and 5-month sales by automaker and brand
Daimler reported a 12 percent increase in European sales in May as demand at its Smart small-car division, which has updated its main two-seat model and added a four-seat version, surged 84 percent. Sales in the region by BMW rose 7.9 percent, driven by a 36 percent jump at the Mini compact-car nameplate, which has also revamped its top-selling model line.