Are lower car sales figures in August a bad omen?
Sales figures for August are (far) worse than a year ago in, for example, Belgium, France, and Japan. Is this a sign that the recovery won’t be V-shaped, as expected? “Let’s not panic yet,” says the sector.
In Belgium, sales were 24,09% down compared to last year (11 500 cars less registered). When we look at the commercial vehicles, the regress is 7,38%. For trucks heavier than 12 tons, nevertheless, there is a growth of 10,2%.
Two-wheelers also did well, with the progress of 21,94% (scooters) and 28,14% (motorbikes). For the first eight months of the year, the market for new cars in Belgium receded with 26,3% (297 524 registered cars, compared to 403 534 in 2019).
In France, the market was 19,8% lower in August, with the PSA group limiting the damage with -8,4%, but competitor Renault Group ending at -20%. For the first eight months of the year, 998 000 new cars were registered, a regress of 32% compared to last year. Foreign makes registered even steeper sales declines, VW falling 35% and Daimler 56,6%, for example. The latter is also due to the complete dwindling of Smart sales (-96%).
Sales of electrified cars were seriously up, almost one car out of four is now electrified in August, 17% hybrid and 5% pure electric. One year ago, this was only 8%.
In Japan, car buyers continue to stay prudent. In August, sales of normal cars (no Kei-cars included) still were down 18,5%, after -20,4% in July, -26% in June, and -40,2% in May.
When we compare manufacturers, we see that Toyota has limited the damage to -11,2% (including Lexus that dropped 45,1%). Nissan (-31,9%) and Honda (-28,4%) performed worse.
Despite the decline in sales in August, François Roudier, spokesman of the French manufacturers’ committee (CCFA), is not overly worried. “We have a normal month of August,” he says, “slowly we’re closing the horrible gap caused by the corona crisis, orders for September are good, the third quarter won’t be bad.”
Of course, the special scrapping premium in June has helped the manufacturers and importers to reduce the stock, but the CCFA didn’t want to prolong this because it could have a perverse effect on sales over time.
Roudier has confirmed that the CCFA attends a market at -30% for the entire year 2020 or at -25% if the situation gets better more rapidly. It all depends on the consumers’ attitude: will he spend his savings (during corona), or will he keep them for worse times?
Individual buyer awakens
Also, in Belgium, there are reasons for a slower month of August. First, you can’t compare it with August last year, because many importers had to get rid of their ‘old’ cars quickly because of changing emission rules.
Nevertheless, there’s still a regress of 26,27% for the first eight months. A brand like Renault sold poorly (-38,6% in August) and is now fourth on the market, where it was second last year.
“We were preparing to launch our new hybrid models in June,” comments Karl Schuybroek, communications director at Renault Benelux. The cars only arrive mid-September; we will try to rectify things from then.”
Something remarkable happened with Belgian sales lately. Where the market was until now rather supported by the sales of company cars, the individual buyers have now retaken the lead.
Company car sales were down 35,7% in August and 31,8% over eight months, individual car sales only 1,7% in August and 19,5% over the first eight months of the year.
Another explanation is the growing interest in second-hand cars. In August 15,1% more second-hand cars were sold than last year. The regress due to the corona crisis is only -10,4% if you consider the yearly average.