PARIS -- Renault, Volkswagen Group and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles led a 30 percent European car sales surge last month, data from industry association ACEA showed, as automakers used discounts to clear inventory ahead of a tougher emissions testing regime.
Registrations across Europe rose to 1.17 million cars, well above usual levels for the slow month of August and the 902,870 achieved in the same month last year, Brussels-based ACEA said on Wednesday.
The tougher new Worldwide harmonized Light vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP) became mandatory on Sept. 1, forcing automakers including Renault and VW to halt deliveries of some model versions that had yet to be re-certified for emissions.
Ahead of the deadline, many automakers boosted financial incentives and registrations of their own new vehicles to be sold on the used car market, analysts said. "Some auto manufacturers offered pre-WLTP vehicles at extremely attractive prices," ACEA said. "As a result, double-digit percentage gains were registered in many EU countries."
The tougher testing methods, designed to produce results that are more in sync with real-world conditions, have proved a hurdle for a number of automakers.
VW Group last month said the stricter rules were a key reason why it would struggle to meet delivery targets this year.
Daimler has also singled out WLTP as an obstacle weighing on its business.
Market watchers predict that pricing pressure will continue into the fourth quarter because automakers have stockpiled registered but as-yet-unsold vehicles. The glut is expected to last a few months, according to a study by the EY consultancy.
The drag on prices from surplus stock and the U.S.-China trade tensions could see BMW's return on sales from automaking drop below an 8 percent to 10 percent range during the third quarter, Evercore ISI analyst Arndt Ellinghorst said in a note Tuesday. BMW has maintained this corridor, a key target for the company, for the last 33 quarters.
The numbers published on Wednesday for the European Union and four European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries reveal that Renault Group posted the steepest increase in regional sales last month, with a 56 percent gain, led by a 67 percent jump at the core Renault brand. Dacia sales rose 37 percent.
VW Group sales were up 39 percent, boosted by an 88 percent rise at Porsche and a 72 percent jump at Seat. The core VW brand increased 44 percent, while Audi's volume was up 32 percent and Skoda rose 14 percent.
Fiat Chrysler sales rose 39 percent, helped by a 158 percent surge at Jeep, an 80 percent increase at Alfa Romeo and a 23 percent rise at the core Fiat brand.
PSA Group sales rose 17 percent, with Citroen rising 37 percent, Peugeot 20 percent and Opel 4.1 percent.
• Download PDF, above right, for July/August sales by automaker and brand
Among Asian brands, Nissan rose 46 percent, followed by Hyundai (35 percent), Toyota (18 percent) and Kia (13 percent).
Ford was up 17 percent.
BMW brand sales rose 4.3 percent, while Mini rose 13 percent. Mercedes-Benz fell 5.9 percent, while Smart sales were up 15 percent.
Forecasters expect the market surge to be offset by a sales slowdown in the remaining months of the year, in which the August discounters are likely to come off worse.
Through August, European registrations rose 5.9 percent to 11.2 million cars.
Automotive News Europe and Bloomberg contributed to this report
Editor's note: The PDF with the sales data for July and August has been corrected.