November (red line) was a mixed month for auto sales, as the above chart shows. It updates the state of the world’s 3 largest markets:
• China remained the largest market with sales of 1.3m. Its Year To Date (YTD) sales are up 6% at 12.5m
• Europe is the 2nd largest market with sales of 1.03m, but YTD was down 2% at 12.1m
• The USA is 3rd, with sales of 1m, and YTD up 11% at 11.6m
In terms of total volumes, YTD 2011 was up 5% versus 2010 at 36.2m. This is a slowdown versus the 9% growth seen in 2010. But it is still respectable.
Interestingly, the USA is now leading the recovery, as both China and Europe have slowed. But its volumes are still a long way from the 15m-17m annual sales which were seen routinely until 2007.
China’s growth has slowed very sharply. Its sales were up 49% in 2009, and 30% last year. But the ending of the stimulus programmes has reduced demand growth very sharply.
Europe, however, is the weakest link. Its volumes have been lower every year since 2007. And it has become dangerously reliant on Germany:
1. Sales there were up 3% in November, as its economy continued to benefit from China’s demand.
2. But in the other major markets, the UK was down 4%, Spain down 6%, France down 8% and Italy down 9%.
Autos are a critical market for the chemical industry. They also provide an important insight into the wider state of consumer demand. Currently they are flashing an amber warning light that difficult times may lie ahead in all the main regions.