European car sales up, but market slowing

European sales volume is up seven percent this year through May, but the market is showing signs of a potential slump.

In May, sales grew 0.8 percent compared to the same month in 2014, according to figures announced Wednesday by market analysts JATO Dynamics. That's the slowest rate since November 2013. Although, many countries had fewer sales days this year, which could have dragged things down.

There were other potentially bad signs for the European market, though. The Volkswagen Golf, Ford Fiesta, and Renault Clio topped the bestsellers list, but all three had falling sales in May. The Clio was the worst of the bunch with a drop of 11.8 percent. The continent's top automakers showed a similar trend, and Volkswagen, Ford, and Opel/ Vauxhall all posted falling volume for the month.

After going into a deep funk in 2013 and then reaching its lowest sales in decades, the European auto market has slowly been climbing out of a dark hole ever since.

JATO Dynamics doesn't think there's reason to believe the sky is falling just yet, though. "Regardless of May's monthly total, with sustained underlying demand, new and diverse models driving increased sales, and the resurgence of the compact MPV segment, the European new-car market is as dynamic as ever," said Brian Walters, the company's vice president of data, in the analysis.

Long a bastion of diesel-fueled engines, European regulators are rapidly moving away from oil burners and even pushing for outright bans in some instances. In their place, governments want a greater number of EVs and plug-in hybrids.
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European new-car sales grew by 0.8% in May, but this is the slowest growth since late 2013

Overall sales across Europe have increased by 7.0% year-to-date

Volkswagen Golf, Ford Fiesta and Renault Clio remain the best-selling cars for the month

JATO Dynamics, the world's leading provider of automotive intelligence, reports that new-car sales in Europe were 0.8% higher in May than in the same month of 2014, while year-to-date sales were 7.0% higher than a year earlier.

JATO's headline market analysis:

Overall growth was maintained, despite fewer trading days in major markets

Spain recorded a 14.6% increase compared to May 2014 as subsidies were renewed

The top three brands and top three models recorded reduced sales compared to May 2014

After many months of strong growth in the European new-car market, May 2015 saw only a 0.8% increase in total volumes compared to the same month last year, the slowest growth since November 2013. This May had fewer trading days than in 2014 in some countries, which is likely to have impacted the relatively lower volumes in those markets. Despite this, overall sales continued to grow due to the continued recovery in some of the countries hardest-hit economic downturn of recent years (e.g. Ireland, Italy) and the renewal of government incentives in Spain.

Brian Walters, Vice President of Data at JATO Dynamics, commented "The number of trading days can affect monthly volumes, disguising underlying trends. The fact that growth continued despite this, along with the strong year-to-date growth gives us reason to be confident about the health of the car market in Europe."

European Monthly Sales Volumes Year-on-Year Comparison

Volkswagen maintained its lead of the market, as its sales dropped by only 1.1% in May and increased by 7.3% year-to-date. Ford, Opel/Vauxhall, Renault and Peugeot completed the Top Five for the month, while Opel/Vauxhall moved ahead of Renault this month for the year-to-date measure.

Despite the lost trading days four of the Top Ten brands recorded increased sales, mostly down to recent model introductions, such as Fiat's 500X, Renault's Kadjar and Mercedes' latest C-Class.

Top Ten Brands
Make May_15 May_14 % change May May Ytd_15 May YtD_14 % change Ytd
VOLKSWAGEN 142,565 144,201 -1.1% 732,195 682,429 +7.3%
FORD 82,467 84,172 -2.0% 442,806 423,406 +4.6%
OPEL/VAUXHALL 78,086 80,536 -3.0% 395,889 379,854 +4.2%
RENAULT 74,568 71,480 +4.3% 404,403 362,479 +11.6%
PEUGEOT 66,766 69,098 -3.4% 363,195 346,575 +4.8%
AUDI 62,598 66,794 -6.3% 324,790 318,963 +1.8%
MERCEDES 61,375 58,219 +5.4% 301,311 273,640 +10.1%
FIAT 57,578 54,846 +5.0% 287,280 266,802 +7.7%
BMW 57,135 55,718 +2.5% 300,110 280,884 +6.8%
SKODA 51,827 52,192 -0.7% 259,124 246,570 +5.1%
Outside the Top Ten brands, new models and variants were linked with the growth, as Jeep, smart, Ssangyong and MINI all recorded larger sales increases compared to May 2014.

A 3.0% reduction in monthly sales made little impact on the Volkswagen Golf's domination of the sales chart, as its two nearest competitors, the Ford Fiesta and Renault Clio also suffered.

Further down the chart, Volkswagen's revised Polo and new-generation Passat recorded significantly increased sales compared to May 2014.

Outside the Top Ten, small crossovers continued to increase their market share, as Renault Captur, Opel/Vauxhall Mokka, Nissan Juke, Citro├źn C4 Cactus and Fiat 500X grew the segment. The compact MPV segment is also experiencing resurgence, driven by the new Volkswagen Golf Sportsvan and BMW 2-Series Active Tourer.

Top Ten Models
Make & Model May_15 May_14 % change May May Ytd_15 May Ytd_14 % change Ytd
VOLKSWAGEN GOLF 44,786 46,939 -4.6% 225,648 225,741 -0.0%
FORD FIESTA 25,414 26,355 -3.6% 140,185 140,373 -0.1%
RENAULT CLIO 24,056 27,268 -11.8% 134,486 127,947 +5.1%
VOLKSWAGEN POLO 23,545 21,051 +11.8% 127,625 117,808 +8.3%
OPEL/VAUXHALL CORSA 21,802 21,514 +1.3% 123,646 106,803 +15.8%
FORD FOCUS 20,227 18,508 +9.3% 102,570 99,782 +2.8%
SKODA OCTAVIA 17,711 18,107 -2.2% 91,352 87,725 +4.1%
VOLKSWAGEN PASSAT 17,579 14,634 +20.1% 89,405 65,124 +37.3%
OPEL/VAUXHALL ASTRA 17,494 17,667 -1.0% 80,408 78,885 +1.9%
NISSAN QASHQAI 17,427 17,857 -2.4% 101,499 91,174 +11.3%
Brian Walters continued "regardless of May's monthly total, with sustained underlying demand, new and diverse models driving increased sales and the resurgence of the compact MPV segment, the European new-car market is as dynamic as ever."

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