Bloomberg News

Renault, Fiat Pace European Car-Sales Drop as Demand Stalls

February 17, 2012

(Updates with Daimler data in 12th paragraph.)

Feb. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Renault SA, Fiat SpA and PSA Peugeot Citroen led the biggest decline in European car sales since June as consumers balked at making big purchases after the region’s economy shrunk.

Registrations in January fell 6.6 percent to 1 million vehicles, marking the fourth consecutive monthly decline, Brussels-based European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association, or ACEA, said today in a statement.

Sales in France, the region’s second-biggest market after Germany, plunged 21 percent, while deliveries in Italy, the third-largest market, slumped 17 percent. Gross domestic product in the 17-nation of euro area fell 0.3 percent in the fourth quarter, the first drop since the second quarter of 2009.

“Carmakers too dependent on small cars and their national markets, as the French ones and Fiat, are suffering the most,” said Ian Fletcher, a London-based analyst with IHS Automotive. “They are basically trying to keep their heads out of the water.”

Peugeot, Europe’s second-biggest carmaker after Volkswagen AG, plans to sell assets after its carmaking division missed a target of break even in 2011. The Paris-based carmaker’s sales in Europe fell 15 percent to 124,240 vehicles.

The European car market may shrink 5 percent this year, Peugeot Chief Executive Officer Philippe Varin told journalists yesterday. That would mark the fifth consecutive annual sales drop for the region.

‘Economically Unproductive’

Fiat, whose mass-market brands lost about 500 million euros in the region last year, is looking for a partner in Europe to cut costs and share technology as it doesn’t see a recovery in the market before 2014. Fiat’s European sales dropped 16 percent to 69,479 autos.

Fiat Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne, who shut down a factory in Sicily at the end of last year, expects the Italian market to fall to the lowest since 1985 this year.

“We need to remove the fact that we’ve got the mass car market in Europe, which is economically unproductive and which, just in raw, pure economic analysis, does not deserve capital allocation of any kind,” Marchionne said on a conference call with analysts Feb. 1.

Renault’s registrations dropped 25 percent to 82,724 cars. The company, based in the Paris suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt, today reported a decline in earnings before interest, taxes and one-time items to to 1.09 billion euros ($1.42 billion) from 1.1 billion euros a year earlier.

Daimler Gain

Registrations in Germany, Europe’s largest auto market accounting for about one in five cars sold in the region, slipped 0.4 percent to 210,195 autos.

Daimler AG, whose Mercedes-Benz division is the world’s third-biggest luxury-vehicle maker after Bayerische Motoren Werke AG and Volkswagen’s Audi division, posted the biggest gain among European-based carmakers, with sales rising 5.1 percent to 49,145 vehicles.

General Motors Co. posted a 14 percent decline to 73,376 vehicles, as a 21 percent decline for the Opel and Vauxhall brands more than offset a 27 percent gain for Chevrolet.

European sales at Volkswagen, the region’s biggest carmaker, rose 1.6 percent to 240,736 vehicles. The Wolfsburg, Germany-based manufacturer, which also owns the Skoda and Seat brands, was boosted by a 7.2 percent gain by Audi, which will revamp the A3 compact this year.

--Editors: Chris Reiter, Chad Thomas

To contact the reporter on this story: Tommaso Ebhardt in Milan at tebhardt@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chad Thomas at cthomas16@bloomberg.net


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