Thanks to strong export growth, German car production last month was up 7% to 485,100 units.

Exports were up 6% to 358,600. Verband der Automobilindustrie (VDA) data shows that year-to-date exports were up 14% at the end of February to 735,700 units, while production was up 10% to 963,300 units.

Registrations were down 15% in February and 13% in the first two months of 2007. This was the result of a strong pull-forward in sales into the last two months of 2006 ahead of the introduction of a new higher VAT rate of 19% from 1 January.

The VDA estimates that 95,000 purchases were 'pulled into' 2006, and that around two-thirds of these have already been accounted for in the below-trend results for January and February. This would suggest that the market should be back on its normal trend path within another month or two.

German brands outperformed the market slightly in the first two months of the year. 128,800 cars were registered by German automakers, down 14% on a year ago, while overseas brands fell by 18% to 54,500 cars.

Virtually all volume brands suffered in the downturn. GM's sales were down over 56% in the month, while Nissan volume fell over 55%. Other big declines were suffered by Fiat (-40.7%) and Peugeot (-41%).
Some companies still managed gains. Porsche, which was heavily criticised during February for high CO2 emissions from its cars, were up 2.5% to 1,162 cars.

Of the volume brands Toyota, Skoda and Seat outperformed the market significantly. Toyota sales were up over 8% to 9,500 units. Skoda sales were up 4.6% to 8,496 units, while Seat grew 10.6% to 3,807.

In 2006 around 44% of all new passenger cars sold in Germany were diesel. So far this year the proportion is up to 48%.

Sue Brown