Ford and GM Post Poor Sales in Europe

Douglas A. McIntyre

The European car market continues to post sales that recently have risen more quickly than those in the healthy United States and, in many cases, China.

Last month offered more proof, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association:

In April 2016, the EU passenger car market posted strong results again, marking the 32nd consecutive month of growth. Registrations during the month grew by 9.1% compared to April 2015, reaching 1,273,733 units. This is the highest result in volume terms since April 2008, just before the economic crisis hit the automotive industry. Among the major markets, Spain (+21.2%) and Italy (+11.5%) recorded the strongest performances with double-digit percentage gains, followed by Germany (+8.4%), France (+7.1%) and the UK (+2.0%).

From January to April 2016, new passenger car registrations increased by 8.5%, totalling more than 5 million units (5,094,026). All major markets posted growth, contributing to the overall upturn of the EU market. The Italian (+18.6%) and Spanish (+10.3%) passenger car markets saw double-digit growth over the period, followed by France (+7.9%) and Germany (+5.6%). The UK market also grew (+4.4%) during the first four months of 2016, although at more modest rate.

Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) and General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) were exceptions. Each has only a modest-sized presence in the market and needs strong results to gain ground. Ford sales rose only 4.0% to 87,291 last month. GM, which goes by the name of Opel Group there, posted a 6.8% gain to 81,310.

The largest car company in the European Union by far is still Volkswagen, although its sales clearly have been hurt by the diesel engine scandal. Its sales rose 2.7% to 152,619. Its market share fell from 12.7% in April last year to 12.0%. Its parent, Volkswagen Group, did better with sales up 5.4% from the same month last year to 321,286. The strength was due to its two luxury brands: Audi sales rose 10.3% to 74,648 and Porsche sales rose 13.4% to 7,343.

Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM) held its place as the top Japanese manufacturer in the EU with sales up 11.8% to 49,955 for the month.