Big automakers face deepening European sales slump

Mon Jul 2, 2012 1:58pm EDT
 
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By Laurence Frost and Jennifer Clark

PARIS/TURIN (Reuters) - French, Italian and Spanish car sales tumbled in June, rounding off a gloomy first half for Europe's auto industry where even the German market may not escape the effects of grim economic conditions.

Already struggling automakers such as PSA Peugeot Citroen (PEUP.PA: Quote) and Fiat FIA.MI suffered as southern European car markets plumbed new lows, according to data published on Monday, a day before German registrations are expected to come in broadly flat.

Industry executives are having to tone down recovery hopes as the crisis deepens, making tentative restructuring moves by Peugeot and General Motors (GM.N: Quote) look inadequate and raising pressure on those yet to act.

"We're standing in doo-doo," Fiat Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne told reporters in Turin on Sunday. "Whether you're in an inch of it or three inches doesn't matter, the stench is still overwhelming."

In Germany, where deliveries turned negative in May, rising discounts and automaker self-registrations - selling new cars as used - suggest Europe's biggest market can no longer be relied upon to soften the slump.

"The auto sector crisis is on a European tour," London-based Credit Suisse analyst Erich Hauser said. "Germany is starting to feel the ripple effects."

Italian registrations plunged 24 percent to record the worst June since 1979, manufacturers' association UNRAE said, while French sales slid further toward an expected 10 percent full-year decline.

The Spanish car market also shrank 12 percent as frantic discounting failed to avert a 24th straight monthly fall, according to the country's ANFAC grouping.   Continued...

 
The Fiat logo on a Fiat 500 is pictured at a dealership in Vienna, Virginia April 26, 2012. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque