Car sales rise in Europe but not for VW

Posted at 7:03 AM, Jan 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-15 08:03:19-05

MILAN (AP) — Volkswagen lagged while other major automakers cashed in on record European car sales in December as the German company struggled with the fallout from its emissions-cheating scandal.

The ACEA carmaker's association said Friday that sales in December enjoyed their strongest surge in the market's 28-month rebound, with an increase of 17 percent to 1.1 million units.

That means European car sales rose 9 percent over last year as a whole, a welcome bump as the region recovers from years of economic and financial crisis. Registrations are only now passing levels from 2010 recorded after the eurozone debt crisis broke out in Greece in late 2009.

Volkswagen severely lagged the trend, with the group's market share eroding to 22.5 percent in December from 24.7 percent in the same month the year previously. December sales for all the company's brands, which also include Audi, SEAT and Skoda, rose just 4.7 percent.

The scandal over Volkswagen's cheating on U.S. diesel emissions tests became known only on Sept. 18, so it mainly affected the company's sales for the last part of the year.

Analysts at Evercore ISI predict that the scandal will wind up costing Volkswagen 4.2 billion euros ($4.6 billion) in lost sales, plus 5.1 billion euros in weaker pricing. Volkswagen lost market share at home in Germany compared to the first nine months of the year, but was resisting the temptation to discount prices to maintain market share.

They said the December market share declines were in line with expectations and that while Volkswagen "is far from out of the woods," the scandal also provides an opportunity to make the company more efficient under new managers installed since the scandal broke.

By comparison, Volkswagen's mass market and premium competitors alike posted strong double-digit sales gains. France's PSA Group saw sales rise 21.4 percent in December, while Renault had a 27.9 percent increase. Both increased their market share slightly during the month.