Thursday 23 January 2014

UK leads EU charge in car sales growth

The UK is the blue-eyed boy of Europe as car registrations edge closer to those of Germany.

In 2013, the UK car industry registered 2.264 million vehicles, a rise of 10.8 per cent. Germany in comparison experienced a 4.2 per drop to 2.952 million vehicles.

The car market in France also declined, by 5.7 per cent, to 1.79 million, with Italy likewise experiencing a fall in sales to 1.303 million – a drop of 7.1 per cent on 2012. And in the Netherlands registrations plummeted 17 per cent to 417,036.

Some markets in Europe did however see a rise in sales. Registrations of new cars in Estonia rose 12.9 per cent to 19,500 while those in Portugal went up by 11.1 per cent to 105,921.

Registrations in Poland went up by 6.3 per cent to 289,913 while sales in Spain shone an extra 3.3 per cent to 722,703.

Volkswagen held pole position with most vehicles registered at 2.950 million, followed by PSA with 1.33 million and Renault with 1.076 million. General Motors came in fourth position with 946,099 registrations throughout the EU while Ford held fifth spot with 878,786 vehicles registered.

The top three Japanese car builders in the EU were: Toyota, 509,328; Hyundai, 408,152 and Nissan with 407,059 vehicle registrations.

JaguarLandRover sales in Europe rose 9.7 per cent from 120,033 in 2012 to 131,701 in 2013.

Volvo Car Corporation, owned by the Chinese, witnessed a fall 0.4 per cent registrations from 211,589 in 2012 to 210,649 in 2013.

In terms of production, the UK returned a figure of 1.509 million for 2013 compared with 1.47 million in 2012 and 1.35 million in 2011. Of the 2013, figure exports accounted for 1.201 million. Exports as a percentage of the total fell from 82.7 in 2012 to 79.6 last year.

By contrast, France’s car production is expected to slip to about 1.54 million, compared with 1.66 million in 2012 and 1.68 million in 2011.

If these figures are confirmed it will be the first time that the UK has been ahead of France since 1966. Such figures however are dwarfed by Germany, the powerhouse of Europe with a possible 5.45 million, ahead of second placed Spain with 1.76 million.

UK suppliers and vendors employ some 750,000 people. Some 80 per cent of UK vehicles produced are exported.

The figures, from ACEA, the European Automobile Manufacturers Association, are provisional.

                               Trucks struggle

The scene in the UK commercial vehicle manufacturing sector in 2013 was gloomy to say the least with output falling over 21 per cent on 2012.

“Production of commercial vehicles struggled in 2013, due to restructuring of manufacturing operations and difficult economic conditions across Europe,” said Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive.

“With early signs of recovery on the continent and better performance in the truck and bus sectors, there are reasons to be positive, but we expect overall volumes to remain subdued for some months yet,” he added optimistically.

Production of vehicles fell from 112,039 in 2012 to only 87,671 in 2013. In 2011 it was over 120,000; such is the sad tale of truck and bus manufacture in the UK.

Commercial vehicle registrations however climbed 14.7 per cent to 327,291 units, of which vans accounted for 271,073 (up 13 per cent), leaving trucks with 56,218 registrations – a rise of 23 per cent, no less.

The figures reveal the reliance of the UK on van and truck imports – products of which at one time the country could be justifiably proud.

Meanwhile, the UK bus and coach market also had a gloomy feel to it as registrations fell 4.9 per cent to 7,708 units.

“The bus and coach sector had a tough year in 2013 competing against the Olympics inflated registrations of 2012, so the market inevitably struggled, admitted Hawes. 

“However, we have seen encouraging signs of growth over the last five months as operators look to invest in new fuel efficient, cleaner vehicles. Given the year-end performance we expect a steady 2014,” he added.

Some UK-based component and systems suppliers are hoping against hope that Hawes’s words will have more than a ring of truth to them.    

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