The West European car market was down by 2.4% in November, mainly a result of weakness in Germany, according to JD Power Automotive Forecasting.

The forecaster and data analyst said that full-year 2007 West Europe car sales will likely top 14.7m units, down slightly on 2006. A further 0.6% decline is expected in 2008 as softness in the UK, Italy and Spain take a toll, even though improving performances, in full-year terms, are expected in France and Germany.

Car sales in Germany were down by 13% in November, marking a relapse into the weakness earlier in the year.

The situation in Germany remains downbeat as consumers shun new car purchases as they await the detail of a coming new annual circulation tax for cars. JD Power says it expects a government announcement in early-mid 2008 that will 'produce clarity on this issue and allow the market to recover'.

The UK market cooled slightly in November to a selling rate of a little over 2.3m units/year. Prospects for 2008, and even 2009, are looking more gloomy for Britain, in the light of the impact of the subprime crisis and coincident economic slowing.

In France, sales continued to develop positively in November with a 7% increase over the same month in 2006, and seasonally adjusted annualised sales rising to over 2.1m units/year (compared with an average of 2.06m units/year so far in 2007).

The outlook for France in 2008 is better still as a result now of the likely (though still not formally confirmed) government scrapping incentive which is assumed to be available from February 2008. An official announcement on this incentive scheme is expected in mid-December 2007.

The Italian market is tracking well ahead of 2006 level: year-to-date sales were up by almost 6%. The incentive scheme which has produced this uplift expires in December 2007, though that deadline is for new car orders — not registrations — so the strong sales will linger into the first quarter of 2008, after which there will be a sharp decline in the market.

In Spain, pressure to renew the Prever scrapping incentive continues: it is due to expire in December 2007, with sales likely  to be strong in that month as a result. There could yet be some movement from government on extending the scheme, JD Power said.

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