European Auto Sales Down 10% in March image

Auto sales in Europe dropped 10% in March, as Ford, VW and PSA Peugeot Citroen continue to struggle with the financial crisis.

In March registrations dropped to 1.35 million vehicles from 1.5 million vehicles in March 2012, according to ACEA. Sales during the first quarter fell 9.7% to 3.1 million units. The recession has caused unemployment in Europe reach the highest level since 1995 and four of the biggest auto markets in Europe fell last month, with Germany down 17%, which is the largest economy in the region.

“The western European passenger-car market is on track this year to hit levels last seen in 1993, and Germany seems to be in a free-fall,” said Max Warburton, analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein in Singapore. “While unit profitability in Germany is not nearly as high as China, it’s still a critical driver of German carmakers’ earning and the current trend is quite disturbing.”

Peugeot’s sales in Europe fell 16% in March, VW dropped 9.3% and the namesake brand reported a 15% decline. Ford, which fell 16%, predicts a loss of $2 billion in the region this year. Analysts predict that auto sales in Europe this year will fall 7%, for the sixth consecutive year. GM’s sales fell 13% last month, with Chevrolet down 28%, Opel and Vauxhall down 10%. Toyota dropped 17% and Hyundai 10%. Renault reported a 9.7% drop, while Fiat fell 1.2 but the namesake Fiat brand increased 7.7% thanks to the new 500L wagon.