EU auto sales are back at early 2009 levels. This was the height of the slump that followed the start of the financial crisis. But today, unlike then, it seems unlikely that politicians can afford another €2500 ($3.25k) ‘cash for clunkers’ programme.
As the chart shows, 2012 sales (red square) fell 10% in February versus 2011 (green line). This followed a 7% fall in January. Cumulatively, they are now just 2% above 2009’s level (blue).
There was no good news, according to ACEA, the industry association. They noted that February “demand for new cars dropped in all major markets, except Germany where registrations remained stable”. Equally, on a year to date basis:
• Sales were down 21% in France and down 18% in Italy
• Spain, the UK and Germany were all slightly negative
It also seems unlikely that coming months will see much improvement. Austerity is replacing stimulus programmes in most countries. Whilst Germany’s economy may well slow as activity weakens in China, its main export market.