• West European car market up 6.7% in April
  • LMC raises its forecast for the West European car market this year to 12.9m units, a 6.6% gain on 2014's total
Car sales in Europe are picking up slightly above analysts expectations this year, as low oil prices boost economic growth and confidence

Car sales in Europe are picking up slightly above analysts' expectations this year, as low oil prices boost economic growth and confidence

Car sales in Western Europe grew by 6.7% in April, as the recovery to the region's car market benefited from a steadily improving economic picture.

According to data issued by LMC Automotive, Western Europe's car market is up 8.2% in the first four months of the year.

The result for April continues the solid start to the year as the economy in Europe continues to improve, boosting consumer and business sentiment across the region.

LMC Automotive has increased its forecast for the West European car market this year to 12.9m units, a 6.6% gain on 2014's total.

"We're seeing some momentum for the demand recovery in Europe now," said LMC analyst Jonathon Poskitt. "The regional economy is picking up, boosted by the fall in energy prices, low inflation and growth of real wages. Confidence is rising. Also, after the low car markets of recent years, significant replacement demand is also being released on the back of that improving economic picture and continuing low interest rates which keep finance costs low - for fleet buyers and for private retail customers. It's also still a very competitive marketplace."

The German car market was up 6.3% in April, with growth led by company car sales. Company car sales in Germany are up almost 11% year-to-date, although that gain comes amid reports of heavy manufacturer activity to secure sales.

As has historically been the trend in the run up to a General Election, demand for new cars in the UK was up in April, leaving the UK car market so far this year up 6.4% on the same period of 2014. An annualise selling rate of 2.5m units a year paints a positive picture of growing confidence in the economy.

However, sales cooled off in Spain during April following the end of the PIVE Plan 7 scrappage scheme. However, LMC noted that the Spanish cae market has grown by 23.9% with the annualised selling rate hovering around the 1m units a year level. LMC also says that a strengthening Spanish economy together with another renewal of the PIVE Plan expected, augur well for Spanish car market prospects.

The Italian car market recorded its fourth consecutive month of double-digit growth, thanks to consumer confidence having improved somewhat from the start of the year. The selling rate picked up significantly in April to 1.7m units a year, the highest rate since September 2011.

In France, too, there was good news, with the market up and an April selling rate of 1.9m units a year as consumers continue to receive a boost from low energy prices and rising employment levels.

 Sales (units)Selling rate (units/year)
  Apr Apr Percent Year-to-date Year-to-date Percent Apr Year-to-date Year Percent
  2015 2014 change 2015 2014 change 2015 2015 2014 change
WESTERN EUROPE 1,123,748 1,052,844 6.70% 4,522,834 4,179,691 8.20% 12,980,953 12,858,114 12,102,107 6.20%
AUSTRIA 32,131 29,240 9.90% 107,285 110,521 -2.9% 308,299 308,330 303,318 1.70%
BELGIUM 51,423 53,319 -3.6% 198,496 201,851 -1.7% 501,863 483,844 482,503 0.30%
DENMARK 16,966 16,511 2.8% 66,244 64,360 2.9% 202,493 206,349 189,051 9.10%
FINLAND 9,633 9,317 3.40% 38,986 39,819 -2.1% 108,485 99,080 106,219 -6.7%
FRANCE 170,768 166,959 2.30% 647,294 613,568 5.5% 1,911,715 1,897,748 1,795,546 5.7%
GERMANY 291,395 274,097 6.30% 1,049,025 985,850 6.40% 3,269,589 3,241,904 3,036,791 6.80%
GREECE 5,531 5,444 1.60% 22,802 22,046 3.40% 63,680 64,676 71,217 -9.2%
IRELAND 9,471 7,822 21.10% 74,319 57,675 28.90% 113,411 117,388 96,283 21.9%
ITALY 148,807 119,849 24.20% 576,665 497,449 15.90% 1,720,059 1,552,269 1,358,396 14.30%
LUXEMBOURG 5,718 5,220 9.50% 17,574 17,531 0.20% 51,789 42,653 49,793 -14.3%
NETHERLANDS 27,148 28,281 -4.0% 138,068 135,311 2.00% 362,160 373,430 388,438 -3.9%
NORWAY 12,782 12,115 5.5% 48,149 48,607 -0.9% 152,727 147,640 144,202 2.4%
PORTUGAL 14,993 12,314 21.80% 61,215 46,274 32.3% 178,677 183,400 142,812 28.40%
SPAIN 82,715 80,189 3.20% 349,849 282,342 23.90% 974,586 995,660 855,295 16.40%
SWEDEN 30,536 27,543 10.90% 106,269 95,346 11.50% 328,029 335,205 303,866 10.30%
SWITZERLAND 27,952 27,804 0.50% 100,227 96,199 4.20% 301,515 303,019 301,942 0.40%
UK 185,778 176,820 5.10% 920,366 864,942 6.40% 2,431,877 2,505,519 2,476,435 1.20%

Austria, Greece, Luxembourg and Switzerland: estimates for latest month

The percent change in the final column compares the average selling rate in the year-to-date with the last full year.