Ford and GM turned in average performances as car sales in Western Europe turned positive in 2014 for the first time in six years, but Jeep’s growth was nothing short of spectacular.
Sales in the overall market gained 4.8 percent to 12.1 million compared with 2013, according to Brussels-based European Automobile Manufacturers Association, known by its acronym in French ACEA.
Ford Europe came in with sales just below the average with a 3.6 percent gain to 890,000, according to ACEA. This year should be good for Ford as it starts selling its new Mondeo (the Fusion in the U.S.) family sedan, and revamped Focus.
GM Europe’s Opel-Vauxhall did a little bit better than average with sales up 5.7 percent to 826,000, although this masked its poor overall performance as Chevrolet sales dived 73 percent to 33,400. Chevrolet’s mainly Korean products are being withdrawn from Europe. Things should also look up for Opel and Vauxhall this year with the new little Karl city car’s unveiling at Geneva next month, with the face-lifted Corsa already on sale and the new Astra later this year. Opel sells cars across Europe except for Britain, where they are badged as Vauxhalls
Jeep sales went through the roof though, led by its top-of-the-range and high profit-margin Grand Cherokee. The FCA subsidiary sold 38,000 vehicles last year, up 71.7 percent, also helped by the Jeep Compass. In 2015, Jeep will introduce the Renegade compact SUV and will hope to ride high on the huge popularity of SUVs in Europe.
Mighty Volkswagen of Germany led the market in 2014 with a share of 25.1 percent and sales up 6.0 percent to just over 3 million. It’s own VW brand did less well with sales up 3.6 percent at 1.5 million. VW also owns value brands like Spain-based SEAT, the Czech Skoda, and premium outfits Audi, Porsche and Bentley.
Another big gainer in 2014 was Renault of France’s Dacia, which raised sales 22.3 percent to 300,000. Dacia was conceived as a maker of cheap and cheerful versions of old Renault models for the third world. But in recession wracked Europe, word got out that these cars were available, reliable and cheap, so Renault diverted them to the European market.
Experts had predicted overall 2014 West European sales, which include all the big markets like Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Spain, would increase five percent. This is the first gain since the shakeout set off by the Great Recession starting in 2008. This year sales are expected to stall with gains of only perhaps three percent. Ominous political noises from Russia, and worrying signs from Greece which might imperil the future of the euro single currency zone are casting shadows over Europe’s economic prospects.