Global automotive markets stable in 2012 but Western Europe remains problem

January 29, 2013

The international automobile markets remained stable during 2012 as a whole, according to the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA).

USA, Brazil, Russia, India and China all enjoyed solid growth, while the Japanese passenger car market recorded sales of around 4.6 million new cars, the highest number of new registrations since 2006. By contrast, sales in Western Europe were down by just over 8%.

The US market for light vehicles (passenger cars and light trucks) showed a year-on-year rise in sales of 13% to over 14.4 million in 2012, whilst total light vehicle production in all North American countries (US, Canada and Mexico) surged by 17.5% to 15.37 million for the 12 months to December. The highest growth in production came in the USA where light vehicle output increased by 19.3% in 2012 to 10.33 million, with Canada increasing by 15.4% to 2.46 million, and Mexico by 12% to 3.00 million.

The light vehicle market in Brazil, by far the biggest of all South American countries, also remained buoyant in 2012 with new registrations rising by 6% to 3.6 million vehicles.

In China the statistics from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) showed that automobile production reached 19.27 million from January to December 2012, an increase of 4.63% compared with 2011. Production of passenger cars was 15.52 million, an increase of 7.2% year-on-year; however, the output of commercial vehicles was down by 4.7% to 3.75 million. CAAM reported that Chinese auto sales increased by 4.3% to 19.31 million in 2012 with passenger car sales increasing 7.1% year-on-year to 15.49 million; however, commercial vehicle sales decreased by 5.5% to 3.8 million in 2012.

Japan put in one of the best sales improvements in passenger car registrations in 2012. The promotional programme in operation up to September, coupled with the need to catch up due to the devastating tsunami in March 2011, generated the best level of new car registrations since 2006. Demand for passenger cars rose by around 30% to nearly 4.6 million.

In India the automobile market saw sales climbing by just over 10% for the January to December 2012 period to reach 2.8 million units.

The West European passenger car market showed no signs of recovery in 2012. On the contrary, new registrations contracted by 8% to just under 11.8 million units. The year ended with new registrations falling by around 16% to 781,800 vehicles in December.

The markets shrank again in France (-15%), Italy (-23%) and Spain (-23%). Germany saw a 3% decline in passenger car sales to 3.08 million for the whole of 2012, and car production decreased by 4% to 5.39 million. Only the United Kingdom put in a positive result, with total vehicle output increasing 8% in 2012 to 1.58 million, the highest level since 2008. Car output rose 9% in 2012 to 1.46 million units, according the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

The new EU Member States showed a less steep decline in new car registrations over 2012 as a whole, with sales down just under 3% over the previous year.

In Russia the market maintained its upward momentum with sales of light vehicles in 2012 increasing by around 11% to 2.9 million units, thus equalling the pre-crisis level of 2008.

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