As price cuts by various producers helped generate a recovery that may last through 2014, European new-car sales surged 13 % in December, the biggest monthly gain in almost four years.
The Brussels-based European Automobile Manufacturers Association, or ACEA, said today in a statement that registrations last month jumped to 948,090 vehicles from 839,027 a year earlier. That pared the decline for the year to 1.8 % for a total of 12.3 million autos, the lowest number since 1995.
Carmakers are predicting a gradual increase in European demand this year after a sovereign-debt crisis and recessions led to a six-year contraction in deliveries through 2013. Consumers replacing old cars may account for some of the recovery, though gains are also being fed by continued incentives from automakers and a government program in Spain to encourage trade-ins of old vehicles for scrapping.
The sales increase in December was the steepest since a 13 % jump in January 2010. It marked the fourth successive month of growth, the longest stretch since the June 2009 through March 2010 period. Among countries using the euro, economic confidence rose in December to a 2 1/2-year high, after an 18-month recession ended in the second quarter.
Registrations rose in Europe’s five biggest auto markets, with jumps of 24 % in the U.K. and 18 % in Spain, where the government revived a cash-for-clunkers incentive program in October. Growth in another 11 countries exceeded 10 %, including a doubling of demand in the Netherlands that was propelled by buyers seeking to avoid a government surcharge taking effect in January.
French carmakers PSA Peugeot Citroen and Renault ranked among the three biggest vehicle discounters in Germany all year, according to industry publication Autohaus PulsSchlag. Ford, which posted a 20 % European sales surge in December, widened its German price reductions to 12.2 % that month from 11.5 % in November. Fiat SpA’s namesake brand, which sold 2.3 % more cars in the region, pushed its average discount to 14 from 13.5 %.