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The European carmaker's association says European Union car sales rose 17 percent in December, for a 9 percent bump in 2015 as a whole


MILAN — 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.

PHOTO: A Volkswagen Sport Coupe Concept GTE on display during the media day of the 94rd European Motor Show in Brussels on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
A Volkswagen Sport Coupe Concept GTE on display during the media day of the 94rd European Motor Show in Brussels on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

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.

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PHOTO: Volkswagen CEO Matthias Mueller speaks to workers at the German automaker’s lone U.S. plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016. Mueller said he had agreed with federal environmental regulators not to publicly  discuss Volkswagen’s next steps in addressing its emissions cheating scandal. Volkswagen was forced to admit last year that about 600,000 vehicles nationwide were sold with illegal software designed to trick government emissions tests.   (AP Photo/Erik Schelzig)
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