European car sales plunge 11% with Fiat, Renault faring worst


EUROPEAN CAR sales plunged the most in almost two years, with Renault and Fiat posting the steepest declines, as the sovereign-debt crisis led to reduced demand in Germany.

Registrations fell 11 per cent to 1.13 million vehicles last month from 1.27 million a year earlier, according to the Brussels-based European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association.

It was the 12th consecutive monthly drop and the biggest decline since October 2010. Sales in the nine-month period fell 7.2 per cent to 9.72 million cars.

Four of Europe’s five biggest automotive markets shrank last month, with drops of 11 per cent in Germany and 37 per cent in Spain. In Ireland sales are down 12 per cent on last year, with many in the industry predicting a further slide next year.

Estimates by distributor spokesmen at the recent Paris motor show suggested that new car sales will not exceed 75,000 in Ireland in 2013, down from 79,000 this year.

Renault was hurt by an 18 per cent contraction in France’s industrywide car sales, while Fiat registrations were pulled down by a 26 per cent plunge in its home market of Italy.

“Fiat has a pretty old product line-up” after chief executive officer Sergio Marchionne “basically stopped all new car launches in the last couple quarters,” said Sascha Gommel, an analyst at Commerzbank AG in Frankfurt. “That hurts them, in addition to the weak market.”

Drivers are also holding off on buying Renault cars as a model update is prepared, he said. Earlier this month a new version of the Clio supermini was unveiled at the Paris motor show.

The automobile association compiles auto-sales figures from the 27 European Union countries plus Switzerland, Norway and Iceland. The trade group is forecasting a 17-year low for full-year sales, and it predicted a contraction of 8 per cent to 10 per cent, steeper than a 7 per cent drop it projected earlier.

Fiat’s European sales fell 19 per cent to 66,991 vehicles.