German car industry inflating sales to suggest growth


HARD SHOULDER:EUROPE’S LARGEST car market is in recession, but few outside the industry would know it, thanks to a controversial sales practice that inflates official statistics and paints a flattering picture of demand.

Three in every 10 new vehicles in Germany, including such premium brands as BMW, are sold not to customers, but to carmakers and their dealers – a type of automotive industry pump-priming known as “self-registration” or “pre-registration”. At nearly half a million such registrations in the six months to July, the total is greater than the entire new car market in Spain.

So while official figures show a 0.7 per cent rise in German car sales for the half year, figures from research firms Dataforce and BDW Automotive show private demand fell 5 per cent in the period, which would mean all the growth had been manufactured by the manufacturers.

“Essentially, the carmakers are deceiving their shareholders, since they make it look as if the vehicles were actually sold. They want to pull the wool over their eyes,” said Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, head of automotive thinktank CAR at the University of Duisburg-Essen.

Industry watchers say manufacturers across the board are paying dealers cash bonuses that can be worth 3-4 per cent of a vehicle’s listing price to reach targets linked to the number of new cars registered as officially sold, whether or not there is a real customer behind that purchase.

General Motors France president Yves Pasquier-Desvignes warned the tactic can have a “devastating cost” for dealers, who might, for example, boost their test-drive fleets to meet registration goals, but then end up caught in a vicious circle.

“If you push at the end of one month, you start the next one in deficit because you’ve registered a car you still have to sell, he said.

And when dealers can no longer keep it up, carmakers do it themselves. As a result, the two account for a combined 30 per cent of the new car market, making the industry itself the second largest source of demand behind only private customers, who account for 39 per cent.

“The phenomenon has really been the increasing number of vehicles registered directly by the manufacturers themselves, said Marc Odinius, who tracks the trend as general manager for Frankfurt-based Dataforce, explaining that carmakers’ own share of the new car market had risen to 9 per cent currently from 5.5 per cent in 2009.

I have to admit I was surprised how high self-registrations are, said Gareth Hession, vice president for research at auto industry forecaster Jato. It seems that people are burying their heads in the sand.

Lexus to update its LS range

LEXUS IS poised to launch a dramatically updated version of its range-topping LS luxury car.

The LS, which has often been accused of looking too quiet relative to the likes of the BMW 7 Series and Mercedes S-Class, will get an all-new look, with the gaping, fanged radiator grille lifted from the new GS saloon.

There will be some interior tweaks and an update to the LS600h’s hybrid powertrain.

The company is also reportedly looking into a chopped-down, more coupé-like LS with a high-performance engine to take on the AMG S-Class.

Jaguar supercar to have 500bhp

JAGUAR HAS confirmed that its ground-breaking CX-75 supercar (pictured) will have 500bhp from an all-new 1.6-litre engine. The small but incredibly powerful engine, developed by Jaguar, will have both a turbocharger and a supercharger, giving it a colossal output.

But the real story of the CX-75 is not in its engine, but in its batteries. Thanks to its hybrid drivetrain, the two-seater will be able to go for about 60km on all-electric power, once you’ve charged the batteries, and will have better emissions performance than a Toyota Prius.

Yet it will top 330km/h and sprint from 0-100km/h in about three seconds. The price? Probably about €1.5 million once you’ve paid VRT and VAT.

Mercedes to bring Hybrid E-class  to Ireland

MERCEDES-BENZ is introducing its new diesel-hybrid E-class to the Irish market. The E300 BlueTec Hybrid will start at just under €48,000 and with emissions of 109g/km it will fall into the lowest tax band with an annual tax bill of €160.

The E300 Hybrid combines the power of a 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel engine developing 204 bhp with a 20kW electric motor powered by a lithium-ion battery. It claims an official fuel consumption of 4.2 l/100km (67.3 mpg). Similar in operation to other current hybrid models, it will not feature a plug-in recharger.

It will be sold in both saloon and estate format.

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