European car sales up in July, but will be down for the year(s)

Swallow - Picture clourtesy

The fact that the battered European car market rose 4.8 percent in July is already feted by some as the long longed for turn-around. But as they say, one swallow does not a summer make, even in July. To begin with, it’s an unofficial swallow.

Registrations of new cars in Europe rose 4.8 percent compared to the same month a year ago to 1.02 million vehicles, German automaker association VDA told Reuters. Usually, data on the European auto market come from the European umbrella organization ACEA, but each summer, the Brussel-based lobbyists take the whole August off. Data for July and August will be supplied together in September once the good folks are back from vacation. Turn-around or not, holidays are more important.

This is the second time in the year that the European auto market went into plus territory when compared to the same month of the previous year. The first time was in April, when car sales rose 1.7 percent in the EU. This had mainly calendar-related reasons. The region had, on average, two more working days than the same month last year.

July had an extra working day in Europe’s largest car market, Germany, which helped lift sales by 2.1 percent. Sales day adjusted, the German auto market shrunk by 2.3 percent according to the calculations of Dataforce.

Most importantly, this July compares to a very weak July 2012, when sales in the region dropped 7.8 percent. Auto sales in Europe are at low levels not seen in 20 years. Despite a blip in July, annual car sales in Europe are predicted to be down for the fourth consecutive year.

The auto business lives and plans in long cycles. Nissan-Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn said earlier in the year that he does not expect any sustained sales growth in Europe over the next three to four years, as Europe goes into a “structural decline:” The population in the prime new car buying age (in most of Europe is between 40 and 60 years) has peaked in many markets. The trailing edge of the peak already makes itself felt with lower sales.

Each August, vacationing lobbyists at ACEA give London-based researcher Jato Dynamics a chance to shine with its compilation of car sales throughout Europe. The Jato data should be out – any day now.