So the EU car market is on the mend? Hold the Champagne, read here what they don’t tell you elsewhere. (Chevy fanbois, take a Valium)

Party time. Picture courtesy smh.com.au

Not yet. Maybe never

From Bloomberg all the way to the South China Morning Post,  the gullible media is singing happy days are here again – in Europe. This after the market for new passenger vehicles rose an anemic 1.2 percent over November 2012. Time to break out the champagne?  Leave the cork in the bottle and take a look.

  • First of all, the EU new passenger market as a whole is still 2.7 percent down for the year, says the EU auto manufacturers association ACEA.
  • The supposedly good November is still the third worst November since ACEA started counting cars ten years ago.
  • Looking at the country data (here in their full glory,) you will see that the Mediterranean basket cases  are bringing in the percentage gains: Greece +31.2 percent, Spain +15.1 percent, Portugal +23.1 percent. These countries were bankrupt last year, had to be bailed out, and had given up buying cars nearly completely. With prior year misery, percentage gains are very easy.
  • What should give cause for concern is that the EU’s largest car market, Germany, was down 2 percent in November, and is down nearly 5 percent for the year. Here is an economy that is hitting on all cylinders, that broke all export records so obscenely that it earned howls of protests from the U.S., and this does not transcend into more cars? Volume market neighbor France also was down 4 percent in November, and 7.1 percent for the year. Minus signs also in the relatively healthy Scandinavian countries. That’s supposed to be the big turn-around?

What we see in the North, and especially in Germany and surrounding countries, are the first ripples of a population tsunami that will wreak havoc with the auto industry: After 1970, births dropped to sometimes half. The missing babies today are missing customer. They will be very sorely missed when the boomers retire. Which they are about to do. Remember: The main buying age for new cars in Europe is between 40 and 60. The implosion of births is now 43. It will get worse.  In the predominately Catholic South, women started popping the pill a little later. They still have the people, but they don’t have the money.

Finally, and overlooked by the gullible media from Bloomberg all the way to the South China Morning Post:  As revealed in “The big registration lie” in the Daily Kanban, large parts of reported EU car sales are fake. The reported numbers are registrations. However, dealers and manufacturers in Europe cook their numbers by “buying” their own cars. They register them for a day (whereupon they enter the stats as sold,) the next day, the car gets deregistered. Now it is officially “used.” and can be sold  or exported at huge discounts. If and when it finds a buyer.

According to Germany’s kfz-Betrieb,  the absolute king of fake sales is GM’s Chevrolet, which bought a whopping 52.3 percent of its own cars, followed by Hyundai with 50.4 percent.  Your eyesight does not betray you, more than half of their sales are made up. Overall, nearly 30 percent of all cars reported as “sold” this year in Germany were “bought” by their own makers, importers, or dealers, kfz-Betrieb says.

Again: These astounding numbers were not made up by us for propaganda purposes. They are daily fare in the EU trade press.  The scheme is so pervasive that it received an euphemistic term to distract from the fact that the sales are fake: They call them “tactical registrations” now. Sounds benign, no? It’s as benign as an extraordinary rendition, followed by enhanced questioning.

In any case: As long as a third of supposedly “sold” cars reappear unsold on the lots, a small vibration of the needle means nothing. Especially when we are near the end of the year, where it gets increasingly enticing to “make your plan.”