EU new car buyers unfazed by #dieselgate, and we are not surprised

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The EU new passenger car market recovered at a solid clip in September, with registrations up 9.8 percent across the EU. Nearly all markets reported solid gains, Italy was up 17.2 percent, and Spain 22.5 percent. Among the manufacturers, Volkswagen Group, up 8.4 percent, slightly underperformed the market. However, observers from the Wall Street Journal to Bloomberg were surprised to see people still buying cars from scandal-ridden Volkswagen. The car business just isn’t that simple.

  • First of all, the scandal did not hit until the later part of the month.
  • Second, it remained more or less a U.S. scandal until quite recently.
  • Third, most of Europe’s new car business is make-to-order. The bigger part of last month’s registrations was cars ordered months ago.
  • Most importantly, these scandals rarely impact sales in a big way.

“That stuff interests only politicos and the media, customers usually don’t give a flying BLEEP about this, and thank God for that” a Volkswagen manager told me in the usual robust language at the company. Indeed, the past big scandals at Toyota and GM hardly moved the needle, and what little drop there was, was quickly recovered. Strangely, big recalls, especially those not impacting safety or driveability, can be good for sales. Millions of customers come back to their dealers, and some will leave with a new car.

Full tables of sales by country and manufacturer can be found here.