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New Car Sales Fall 8.2% Across The EU in 2012

European car makers ended a woeful year for car sales with a month on month drop in December on new car registrations of 16.3%. The fall was the fastest monthly drop since October 2010. Clearly some seasonal factors were at play, with December having fewer shopping days due to the annual holidays and many consumers focusing spending on Christmas shopping.

European car makers ended a woeful year for car sales with a month on month drop in December on new car registrations of 16.3%. The fall was the fastest monthly drop since October 2010. Clearly some seasonal factors were at play, with December having fewer shopping days due to the annual holidays and many consumers focusing spending on Christmas shopping. The figures do however highlight a broader issue, with consumers still finding banks reluctant to provide loans for such purchases. Joblessness across the Eurozone of 12% is similarly depressing sales. For the year as a whole, car sales across the EU fell by 8.2%.

 
The biggest losers in December were the US giants, Ford and General Motors. The two Detroit car makers posted almost identical declines of around 27%. Even the usually strong sales of Volkswagen's core brand fell by 22%, with luxury stable mate Audi close behind. The keen pricing, attractive design and long warranties of Korean makers Hyundai and Kia however has proved to be a winning formula. Sales of these brands were up 10.5% and 6.8% respectively. Interestingly in the context of David Cameron's call for a referendum on Europe, the non Eurozone countries of Sweden and the UK bucked the downward trend and actually showed growth during December.
 
The contrast between the UK and the rest of Europe is even more stark when looking at 2012 as a whole. The UK car manufacturing industry saw record export figures with a rise of over 8% on 2011. The total number of cars manufactured also rose, up 9% on 2011 to 1.46 million. The stellar performance is thought to be the result of the UK's focus on premium quality brands such as Jaguar and Land Rover which continue to sell very well in the emerging economies of China and Russia. At the other end of the UK car manufacturing spectrum, Nissan continues to invest heavily in its Sunderland plant which is now one of the most efficient in Europe. Models produced in the plant are selling well internationally, adding to the strong export figures. 
 
Britain is not immune to the problems in Europe though and Japanese manufacturer Honda recently announced 800 job losses at its Swindon plant. Some analysts also fear that General Motors' UK operations could suffer if the US company continues to struggle in Europe. Nevertheless, the future for UK car making for the moment at least looks bright and for once Britain's focus on non-European export markets seems to be paying off.

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