Global sales of cars and light vehicles bounced back following a sluggish start in the first quarter of 2013 with increases of 8% in April. The improvement was broad based around the world but was led by a more than 30% year-on-year surge in South America, specifically Brazil which saw a staggering 56% year-on-year increase in light truck production in April.
Vehicle sales in the USA and Canada have continued in a positive vein with the USA on target to reach an annualised total of 15.3 million vehicle sales after reaching 1,443,311 cars/light vehicles in May, the highest volume for the month in six years. Canada has increased sales to give an annualised total of 1.78 million units for 2013 so far, up 5% on a year earlier. Given the strengthening demand for cars and light vehicles North American output is expected to rise to an annualised 16.4 million units in the second quarter of 2013.
European car sales data remains gloomy with the first four months of 2013 showing car registrations amounting to 4,026,946 units, or 7.1% less than in the same period a year ago. From January to April, the UK remained the only major market to post growth (+8.9%). Spain (-6.7%), Germany (-8.5%), France (-12.3%) and Italy (-12.3%) all saw their demand decline. UK new-car sales rose 11% to 180,111 in May, marking the 15th consecutive month of growth for the market. Russian car sales suffered a double-digit percentage drop in May following three months of falling sales in the 1st quarter of 2013. This has prompted the Association of European Businesses (AEB) to cut its car sales forecast for Russia by 5% for the full year to 2.8 million units.
The overall strength in global car sales combined with low inventories is prompting car manufacturers to ramp up production in most regions. Brazil car production is expected to continue to rise as long as the tax break designed to support the Brazilian auto industry remains in effect through to the end of 2013. Vehicle production in Thailand has already increased by 20% so far this year, and Japanese auto makers are boosting production in Japan and also outside of Japan, despite falling domestic sales.
Sales including those of mini vehicles declined 7.5% to 1.89 million vehicles in Japan in the first four months of 2013, which is a slower pace of decline than a fall of 11.7% to 4.74 million vehicles projected for the whole of 2013 by the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association.
Auto output has also started to rebound in South Korea after a double-digit decline in the first quarter, whilst in China sales of autos, SUVs and minivans rose 14.7% to 7.3 million in the first five months of 2013. Total vehicle sales in China rose 12.6% to just over 9 million in the 5 month period.