June 17, 2014 at 2:54 pm

European car sales rise a 9th month on consumer confidence

European car sales rose 4.3 percent in May, the ninth consecutive monthly gain, as a recovery in consumer confidence encouraged purchases of new models from Renault SA and Volkswagen AG following a six-year market slump.

Registrations increased to 1.13 million vehicles from 1.09 million a year earlier, the Brussels-based European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association, or ACEA, said Tuesday. Five-month sales gained 6.6 percent to 5.62 million cars.

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi signaled last month that unprecedented monetary policy measures were coming in June to encourage lending in the countries sharing the euro to combat sluggish economic growth. Among the top 10 car sellers in Europe, registrations at third-ranked Renault jumped the most in May, at 18 percent, with gains of 9.5 percent at market leader Volkswagen and 4.2 percent at second-place PSA Peugeot Citroen.

“It’s a modest recovery from low levels of overall demand,” Marc-Rene Tonn, an analyst with M.M. Warburg in Hamburg, said by phone. “It’s the second-worst May since 2003.”

The ACEA compiles figures from the 28-country European Union, excluding Malta, as well as numbers from Switzerland, Norway and Iceland. The stretch of gains is the longest since a 10-month period of sales growth that ended in March 2010.

Registrations in Germany, Europe’s largest market at about one-quarter of deliveries, rose 5.2 percent in May, in part thanks to an extra selling day. Sales fell 3.8 percent in Italy, the only decline among Europe’s five biggest auto markets.

“If you look at places like Spain, where sales gained 17 percent, it’s clear there’s a degree of pent-up demand, but how sustainable this is remains to be seen,” Tonn said.

European sales surged 24 percent last month at Renault’s low-cost Dacia division, which has revamped its Duster sport-utility vehicle and Sandero hatchback. The Renault namesake brand, bolstered by the Captur crossover, sold 16 percent more cars.

Sales jumped 23 percent last month at Volkswagen’s Skoda marque, helped by a new version of the Octavia small car, and 22 percent at the Seat nameplate, which added a station-wagon variant to its Leon compact vehicle line at the end of 2013. Registrations by the namesake VW brand and the Audi luxury division each rose 4.8 percent.

Combined European sales by General Motors Co.’s twin Opel and Vauxhall marques rose 6.2 percent last month, helped by the Mokka compact SUV and Corsa small car. GM’s group registrations in Europe dropped 7.1 percent as the Chevrolet nameplate is being withdrawn from the region.

European registrations rose 10 percent in May at Nissan Motor Co. and 2.2 percent at Toyota. Sales fell 2.8 percent at Ford and 2.9 percent at Fiat SpA.

Europe’s car market is recovering from a two-decade low reached in 2013. Industry executives are predicting growth in regional auto demand of 2 percent to 3 percent this year. A recovery in the region and Chinese market expansion will help automakers meet their goals this year, analysts at Deutsche Bank AG said in a report yesterday, citing company comment during an industry conference last week.