European Car Sales Rise to 10-Year High on Peugeot, Renault SUVs

(Bloomberg) -- European car sales reached a 10-year high last year as widening economic growth boosted consumer confidence, with SUVs from French manufacturers Peugeot and Renault, Italian competitor Alfa Romeo and Japanese rival Toyota propelling demand.

Registrations in 2017 increased 3.3 percent to 15.6 million vehicles, the Brussels-based European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association, or ACEA, said Wednesday in a statement. The figure was the highest since a record 16 million autos were delivered in 2007. December sales dropped 4.8 percent from a year earlier to 1.14 million vehicles, hurt by extra days off for Christmas versus the 2016 period.

European Car Sales Rise to 10-Year High on Peugeot, Renault SUVs

The economy of the countries sharing the euro probably expanded at its fastest rate in a decade last year, according to European Central Bank estimates, and unemployment is at the lowest since 2009 across the region, including all-time lows in Germany and Poland. Sport utility vehicles gaining customers in 2017 included Renault SA’s Captur and the Logan MCV Stepway from the company’s Dacia division, as well as the newly introduced Peugeot 5008 and Citroen C3 Aircross from PSA Group and Alfa Romeo’s Stelvio.

The European car market’s growth is likely to slow in 2018, with Renault predicting a 1 percent gain and research company Evercore ISI foreseeing “flat” demand. Sales in the U.K., which fell 5.7 percent in 2017, will probably remain a drag on the region’s figures amid car buyers’ uncertainty over how Britain’s pending exit from the European Union will affect household budget, LMC Automotive consulting company said in a report last month. Customers’ questions about the future of diesel technology will also hold back demand.

Among the top 10 car sellers in Europe, Toyota Motor Corp. posted the steepest increase last year, at 12 percent. The Japanese company said a week ago that European demand for its compact crossover RAV4 hybrid surged 31 percent in 2017. Renault’s group European sales rose 6.7 percent, helped by Dacia’s 12 percent gain. A 30 percent jump at Alfa Romeo contributed to a 5.2 percent increase at parent Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, whose main Fiat marque sold 4.5 percent more cars.

Group passenger-model sales by Volkswagen AG, Europe’s biggest automaker, rose 2.1 percent in 2017 as the Spanish division Seat introduced the Ateca and Arona SUVs in the region and the luxury Porsche marque refreshed its Cayenne model, making up for declines at the namesake VW brand and Audi premium unit. The German company published figures separately Wednesday showing its global sales rose 4.3 percent to a record 10.7 million cars, trucks and buses, putting it on track to protect its No. 1 worldwide industry ranking.

European sales at Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz division, the world’s biggest luxury-car maker, jumped 6.4 percent on demand for SUVs like the GLC coupe as well as the latest version of the brand’s E-Class sedan. Competitor BMW AG’s namesake marque lagged behind with a 0.5 percent gain in European registrations as customers awaited rollouts of the all-new X2 crossover and full-size X7 SUV and overhauled models including the 5-Series sedan.

The ACEA reports figures from the 28 EU countries, excluding Malta, as well as Switzerland, Norway and Iceland.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.