EU new car market sputters back to life, but still requires life support. “GM Group” replaced by “Opel Group”

Up 4.2%

Up 4.2%

After having been in steady decline for six long years, the EU new passenger car market finally had a change of heart (rhythm.) 12,550,771 new passenger cars were registered in the EU in 2014, Europe’s manufacturer association ACEA says. The 5.7% growth posted in 2014 can hardly be called a decisive turn-around.

What little growth there was recorded across the EU came on the back of a hard crash in 2013, when the barely averted bankruptcy of several southern EU countries exacerbated the long and slow seminal downtrend of new car sales in the EU. Compared to the record low base of 2013, Spain, up 18.1%, recorded the largest increase in 2014. EU powerhouse Germany was up only +2.9%, while France, up 0.3%, treaded a very shallow water.

What little growth there was, was bought with often relentless discounting, squeezing the already tight margins even further. Juggernaut Volkswagen Group, up 7.2 percent, gained market share. Renault Group, up 13.3 percent for the year, gained even more. Both profited from a little monitored, but nonetheless very powerful trend in Europe, namely that to the low cost car. Renault’s budget Dacia brand was up a whopping 24 percent in 2014. Volkswagen’s “smart shopper” Skoda brand grew 14.2 percent. Volkswagen’s SEAT added 13.8 percent, mainly due to the Mediterranean markets coming back to a semblance of life.

American makers had mixed luck. Ford, up 5.8 percent, could turn with the market. Despite Opel’s 7.7 percent growth, GM is down 4.3 percent on a group level, mainly due to the wind-down of the Chevrolet brand. “Other” GM products, a category that serves mainly as a hiding place for Cadillacs, are fading into non-existence. GM’s “other” category dwindled from 254 units in all of 2013 to a grand total of 162 in the year thereafter. Just to show how bad this is: In supposedly closed Japan, Cadillac managed to sell 968 units in 2014. Speaking of hiding places: The former “GM Group” has been relabeled as “Opel Group” in the annals of the ACEA, probably bothering British friends of Vauxhall to no end.

A full table of EU sales can be found here. The Daily Kanban will continue to follow the EU and Japanese markets for you throughout the year, while recording the U.S. market without adding ado to the already wide coverage elsewhere.