European car sales fell to a 14- year low last month, with Fiat SpA (F), Renault SA (RNO) and PSA Peugeot Citroen (UG) posting the biggest drops, as the region’s sovereign- debt crisis caused economic growth to stall.
Registrations in the 27-member European Union plus Switzerland, Norway and Iceland fell 6.6 percent from a year earlier to 1.5 million vehicles, the lowest figure for March since 1998, the Brussels-based European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association said today in a statement. First- quarter sales dropped 7.3 percent to 3.43 million vehicles.
France and Italy, Europe’s second- and third-biggest auto markets, shrank by more than 20 percent. The regional drop was alleviated by growth at German carmakers, such as Volkswagen AG. (VOW) Paris-based Peugeot is among auto manufacturers forecasting an industrywide contraction of 5 percent in Europe this year.
“The extent of the beat for Germans is a bit surprising, as well as the extent of the downturn for the French,” Adam Hull, a London-based analyst at WestLB AG, said by phone.
French car sales plummeted 23 percent to 197,774 vehicles, while Italian registrations dropped 27 percent to 138,137, according to the association, or ACEA. Countries reporting sales increases included Germany, the region’s largest car market, with a 3.4 percent gain, Poland with 8.6 percent growth and Romania with a 29 percent jump.
Strike Hurts Fiat
European sales at Fiat, Italy’s largest vehicle manufacturer, tumbled 26 percent to 81,469 cars, according to the ACEA. Deliveries were hampered by a truckers’ strike in the country, Turin-based Fiat said today in an e-mail.
Peugeot, Europe’s second-biggest automaker after Volkswagen, reported a 19 percent sales drop in the region to 165,118 vehicles. The carmaker announced a broad alliance with General Motors Co. (GM:US) on Feb. 29 that will include joint purchasing and vehicle development in an effort to revitalize their European operations.
Renault, France’s second-ranked carmaker after Peugeot, posted a 20 percent decline in European sales to 112,894 units. Sales in the region by Ford Motor Co. (F:US) fell 7.6 percent to 131,410 vehicles, while Detroit-based GM, the world’s biggest carmaker, posted a 10 percent European registration drop to 129,912.
Volkswagen’s European sales gained 1.7 percent in March to 352,455 vehicles, while registrations increased 3.2 percent to 93,313 at Munich-based Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW) and 5.1 percent to 73,899 at Stuttgart-based Daimler AG. (DAI)
Fiat fell as much as 2.4 percent to 3.93 euros and was trading down 0.9 percent at 10:55 a.m. in Milan. Peugeot dropped 2.4 percent to 9.60 euros and Renault declined 0.5 percent to 35.80 euros in Paris.
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