The slowdown in the auto markets has spread to regions outside of Europe. Already, Volkswagen’s monthly sales are currently at their slowest pace in more than three years. Christian Klingler, VW’s sales chief, said that nearly all markets outside North America and China are worried about markets becoming more challenging.
Last year, the European auto market was at its lowest levels in almost 20 years as governments, banks, corporations and households attempted to shed heavy debts at the same time, worsening an economic recession and cutting the demand for major items such as cars.
In March, VW's deliveries to customers in March barely moved, growing by only 0.2% to 864,500 units as 11% expansion in China helped make up for the poor sales in Europe.
A spokesman said that the last time that VW had a weaker monthly performance was in December 2009, when group sales fell by 9% year on year. Its volumes in the first quarter increased by 5.1% to 2.27 million vehicles, boosted by a 21% increase in China, the single largest market of the group.
Bigger rivals like Toyota and General Motors didn’t unveil their sales for the latest quarter yet but analyst Frank Schwope of NordLB predicts that for this year, VW will surpass GM in size. He said that Volkswagen probably won’t be able to sustain its present 5% growth rate for the year.
He estimates that VW will sell about 9.6-9.7 million units in 2013, leading to a 3% increase, which he thinks will be sufficient to outperform GM.
In the first quarter of the year, VW's own brand sold almost 600,000 vehicles to Chinese customers, a 24% increase, while VW marques Audi and Skoda contributed sales of 100,000 and nearly 58,000 units respectively.
A separate statement was released by Jochem Heizmann, Chief Executive of Volkswagen Group China, who said that it aims to raise its number of dealers to over 3,000.