Most of the major automobile markets around the world continued to show growth in the first quarter of 2014. Sales in the Western European passenger car market increased by over 7% to 3.1 million units, the US market for light vehicles totalled 3.73 million units, up 1% and China reported impressive growth, with sales of 4.87 million.
New car registrations in the EU Member States rose by 22% in the quarter. In Germany, the region’s largest car producer and consumer, production in the first quarter increased by 11% to 1,475,200 units with new car registrations rising by 6% to 711,700 units. However, sales dipped by almost 4% to 274,097 in April, the first drop for five months and a sign that the recent recovery in demand remains fragile.
Especially keen growth was shown by the UK market which saw 1st quarter registrations up 13.7% to 688,122 units. French, Spanish and Italian sales rose in the quarter as did the smaller markets in Portugal, Greece and Ireland. In contrast, demand for cars fell in the Netherlands, Switzerland and Austria. Sales in Spain increased by 29% in April, helped by a government subsidy scheme that gives buyers of new vehicles a rebate for turning in old cars.
In the USA the severe winter reduced the sales of light vehicles in January and February, but they rebounded in March. The volume of the US market for light vehicles totalled 3.73 million units for the first three months of this year, which is 1% up on the same period in 2013. Light vehicle production in the USA increased by 5.1% to 2.832 million units in the quarter. Light vehicle production in Mexico increased by 6.2% to 770,492 units but decreased in Canada by 3.1% to 557,979 units.
The Chinese passenger car market also showed impressive growth in the first quarter, with the production and sales of passenger cars reaching 4,798,700 and 4,869,500 units, up 9.5% and 10.1% respectively compared with the same period last year. In Japan registrations of new passenger cars soared by 21% to 1.6 million units in the first quarter due to an upcoming VAT increase from 5 to 8% pushing up purchases. It was the seventh month of double-digit growth in succession.
Korean vehicle production in the first quarter of 2014 rose by 3.7% to 1,154,853 units thanks to increased domestic demand and exports.
The Russian and Brazil markets have seen setbacks in the first quarter of 2014 with Russian vehicle sales contracting by 2% to 602,500 units compared with the same period in 2013, and Brazil also down 2% on year to date sales at 775,400 units.