Some markets observers are revising upwards their sales forecasts for auto sales in western Europe as the region log six straight months of year-on-year growth. "The outlook for 2014 is for a solid improvement of 3 percent on the previous year, with potential upside if the German and Spanish markets can sustain recent form," Jonathon Poskitt, LMC Automotive’s head of European sales forecasting, said.
While LMC’s new forecasted figure is only slightly higher its prediction in January (2.7 percent), the revision indicates LMC’s optimism that 3 percent should be the minimum growth that can be expected for the year. "Following a weaker seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) in January -- itself a consequence of the strong finish to 2013 -- the February selling rate headed in the right direction once again, climbing to 11.9 million units a year," Poskitt said.
Western Europe saw car sales gain 5 percent in February -- the same level of growth posted in January. In terms of country performance, substantial changes were logged between January and February. For instance, car sales in Germany grew only 4.3 percent in February, lower than the 7.2 percent gain in January.
Considering seasonal factors, the SAAR in Germany rose from 5.6 percent in January to 6.3 percent in February. Poskitt remarked “the outlook appears bright” for Germany, thanks to the country’s healthy labor market and rising real wages. Car sales in Italy, meanwhile, surged 8.6 in February but is expected to grow 5.9 percent for the year.
The SAAR, however, indicates that full year 2014 for the full year will be down 1.1 percent. Poskitt pointed out that in the opening months of 2013, the SAAR for Italy averaged just 1.2 million units a year, got a little stronger over the following four months, and then declined again. "In other words, the Italian car market was desperately weak at the start of last year and so the start of 2014 looks, comparatively, somewhat better," he told Automotive News Europe in an e-mail. [source: automotive news - sub. required]