July is never a great month for car sales, but registrations did rise 9.3% to 144,000 units, according to figures from the trade body, SMMT.
It now looks like the total UK car market will grow to 2.0 million units in 2012, but that is still well below its pre-recession peak of over 2.5 million. The problem for the car manufacturers is that Southern Europe is dropping like a stone, which means they are trying to divert sales to the UK. That is going to mean some very big discounts as manufacturers try and force cars down the throat of the UK market.
The big winner in July was Land Rover (up over 60%), but that is hardly news – they have been the big winner for most of the last three years. The big loser was Renault (down 30%, and almost as predictable). It was generally good news for anyone with a UK factory: Nissan, Honda and Toyota all had double digit increases for the month of August, and all three are also up for the first seven months of the year.
However, there are a few of companies now on the critical list – and most of them are Fiat subsidiaries. Alfa Romeo is down to a market share of just 0.4%, Chrysler is down to 0.2% and Jeep is at 0.1%. At those figures, it cannot be profitable to import right-hand-drive cars to the UK, so they desperately need to increase sales. Paradoxically, the main Fiat brand is doing a bit better, with sales up 13% so far this year, but it is still behind the likes of Hyundai, Kia and Skoda.