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Late Europe Sales Numbers Show Surge In December

Some Forecasters Lift Expectations For 2014.
But Others Warn Short-Term Recovery Will Be Tepid.

Car sales in Western Europe look like stabilising in 2014, despite an impressive final month which saw the market jump 11.8 per cent.

According to LMC Automotive, Western European sales in 2013 dipped by only 1.9 per cent, a big relief to car manufacturers who had started the year fearing a negative number between five and 10 per cent.

Some experts scrambled to raise their estimates for 2014.

“We forecast a nascent recovery in European new car-registrations in 2014, the beginning of a long road back to the pre-crisis levels last seen in 2007,” said Chicago-based stock broker Morningstar.

Morningstar sees a two to four per cent sales gain for Western Europe in 2014.

International Strategy and Investment (ISI) of London is a bit more optimistic, raising its E.U. forecast to 4.2 per cent from an earlier plus 2.8 per cent, but doesn’t see much more than a stagnant near-term future.

“Despite raising our 2014 forecasts, we maintain our view that the European market will remain challenging for the foreseeable future. On our numbers E.U. registrations in 2016 will only return to the 2011 level – still some 15 per cent below the 2007 demand level,” ISI said in a report.

ISI was heartened by news from Germany.

“We are receiving more positive signals regarding E.U. pricing. For instance German used vehicle prices increased by 5.5 per cent in October, 5.9 per cent in November, and 6.7 per cent in December. These are the biggest hikes on record,” ISI said.

LMC Automotive reported that sales in Western Europe finished the year strongly and ended with a total of 11.82 million vehicles, with the annual selling rate at an impressive 12.3 million. But LMC wouldn’t be budged from its cautious outlook for 2014.

“The generally positive evolution of selling rates over 2013 bodes well for growth in 2014, as does the expectation of expansion in the wider economy. At this stage though, we remain cautious than any major improvement will take place in 2014, forecasting modest growth of two to three per cent,” LMC said.

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