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European Car Sales Race Ahead, with VW Stuck in Slow Gear

Dec. 15, 2015
European car sales are up 13.7% in November, with big gains for Jaguar Land Rover (70%), Daimler (22.8%) and Opel (18.3%) ... but not for Volkswagen, which increased 4.1%, well off the pace.

European car sales soared by 13.7% in November, but scandal-plagued Volkswagen trailed the pack with only a 4.1% increase, according to data released Tuesday by a trade industry body.

While VW still remained by far the top carmaker in Europe in sales, it had the smallest monthly percentage gain of all carmakers, the European Automobile Manufacturers Association data showed. The VW scandal, which has stretched across the last three months, could easily cost the company tens of billions of euros in repair costs and fines, and there have been concerns that it could also crimp sales going forward.

The company said last week that worldwide sales of all of its 12 different brands were down 2.2% in November. Although VW’s sales in the EU still rose in November, its market share slid to 24.3%, compared to 26.6% in the same month last year.

November sales data show that VW hasn’t cast a cloud over other German carmakers. Daimler’s sales were up 22.8% and Opel 18.3%, although BMW’s 10.1% gain was below average. French automakers Peugeot-Citroen and Renault both saw sales increases near the industry average.

The biggest monthly percentage sales gain of 70% was posted by Jaguar Land Rover Group, as sales of Land Rovers jumped by 66.7% and Jaguars by 83.7%.

Over the 11 months of the year, European new car registrations — a proxy for sales — were up 8.7% to 12.6 million vehicles, already beating the number sold in 2014. “Nevertheless, this result is only now reaching the levels registered in immediate post-crisis years,” the European Automobile Manufacturers Association said in a statement.

The 1.08 million vehicles sold in November this year is still far from the more than 1.2 million vehicles sold during that month in 2006 and 2007, before the global economic crisis struck.

Spain, one of the European countries worst hit by the crisis, saw its sales rise 25.4% in November. Italy, another country that has wobbled along in the crisis, saw a 23.5% gain.

French sales were just below the EU average at 11.3% in November but the British market appears to have cooled off with sales up just 3.8% in the month. For 2015 as a whole, Ireland looks to be in pole position to post the largest increase in sales. For the first 11 months of the year, sales rose by 29.8%. The country posted the fastest average economic growth rate in the EU in the first three quarters at 7%.

Chinese NGO sues Volkswagen over emissions fraud

In related news, a Chinese court has agreed to hear a case brought by a local environmental organization against Volkswagen over its scandal, the campaign group said Tuesday.

The China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation will take VW to court over 1,950 vehicles it imported to China equipped with the emissions-cheating software, saying the company broke Chinese laws and worsened air pollution. 

“This is the first case of public-interest litigation against vehicle pollution, and for us it is only the beginning,” said Ma Yong, deputy secretary general of the Beijing-based group. “We feel this lawsuit is bound to have a definite impact on other car companies guilty of environmental violations.”

The No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court of Tianjin formally accepted the case last week, according to official documents posted to the NGO’s social media account. China is the world’s biggest auto market but the vast majority of cars in the country are petrol-driven, hence the small number of vehicles implicated in the scandal.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2015

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