European automotive market shares hold steady

Europe’s automotive sector has had its fair share of highs and lows in recent years, but one thing has remained largely constant: the biggest manufacturers’ share of the European market, Scope Ratings GmbH agency says. European consumers’ willingness to buy new cars has ebbed and flowed with the economic cycle, but their choice of which make of car to buy has varied relatively little despite financial crises and governance scandals at some auto makers.

The most visible example is Volkswagen, Europe’s leading auto maker by sales. The German car maker – which owns the Audi, Porsche and Skoda brands among others – has held on to its roughly one-quarter share of the market in Europe (EU and European Free Trade Association countries combined) since 2012 despite the 2015 diesel-emissions scandal. “Whatever the impact there has been on Volkswagen’s reputation from it use of a defeat device in emissions testing and related questions about its corporate governance, customers have remained loyal,” Werner Stäblein, analyst at Scope, says. The scandal at the German auto maker led to the imposition of multibillion-euro penalties in Europe and the US, multiple lawsuits and the departure of senior officials.

Similarly, Renault’s share of the market has remained steady in the months after the arrest of the French company’s former Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn last November in Japan on charges of financial misconduct.

“It pays creditors and investors to watch broader trends in the sector that determine overall industry volumes on which the financial health of the mass-market auto makers’ depends,” Stäblein notes. Registrations in Europe of new cars have fallen 1.6% in the first nine months of 2019 compared with the same period last year, putting the market on course for its first contraction after five years of growth to 15.2 mio cars in 2018. Stäblein says he expects a further decline in 2020 as economic growth continues to slow. “The product cycle is what tends to drive small short-term deviations in market share,” he says. Staggered relaunches of top-selling cars in Europe such as Volkswagen’s Golf and Renault’s Clio typically provide temporary boosts in their parent company’s sales relative to their main rivals’.

Stäblein acknowledges that the European market has not been completely static. Renault, partly through the success of its no-frills Dacia brand, is one leading manufacturer which has slowly but steadily increased its share of the market, standing at 10.4% year-to-date, up from 8.4% in 2012. South Korea’s Hyundai, owner of the Hyundai and Kia brands, has also emerged as the Europe’s fourth largest manufacturer by market share, though the combined 19% share of smaller auto makers challenging the leading manufacturers in Europe hasn’t changed much in the period.

“Acquisitions and asset sales are what have largely determined bigger changes in individual companies’ market share rather than their brands’,” Stäblein points out. “PSA has entrenched its position as Europe’s number-two auto maker after buying Opel from General Motors in 2017, but the combined PSA-GM market share has remained stable at around 16%.”

Europe’s top seven original equipment manufacturers, market share year-to-date 2019 (vs full year 2012), EU and EFTA countries: Volkswagen 24.4% (24.8%), PSA Group + GM 16.1% (16.0%), Renault 10.4% (8.4%), BMW 6.4% (8.1%), Daimler 6.2% (6.4%), FCA Group 6.1% (7.5%), Ford 6.1% (6.4%), Toyota 5.1% (5.2%), others 19.2% (19.0%).

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