Political headwinds across Europe are dampening any hopes of growth in vehicle sales this year.
Executives at the Geneva Motor Show are watching the markets closely with instability in Spain and Italy, Brexit concerns in the UK, the devaluation of the Turkish lire while France and Germany sail dangerously close to recession.
These are all having a damaging effect on consumer confidence and no one seems to think total vehicle sales across Europe will be significantly different to last year’s total of 20.6m.
However, there are some companies bucking the trend. Combined Toyota and Lexus sales hit a record 1.035m and Toyota Motor Europe marketing chief Matt Harrison believes the brands will see further growth in 2019.
He said: “We have the new Toyota Corolla while we see the new UX pushing Lexus sales upwards from 76,000 to 90,000 this year. Of course there are some headwinds but I think we have put ourselves in a good position to navigate them.”
Lack of clarity over Brexit, he said, is causing headaches in terms of new vehicles coming from Japan as well as the supply of parts to Toyota’s UK factory.
“In terms of just in time delivery there is only so much we can do to plan for every scenario but we have done what we can.”
Also seeking clarity was Paul Philpott, president of Kia UK. His problem is a shipment of cars is already on its way from Korea but will not hit British soil until after 29 March.
He said: “I have no idea what customs or tariffs are going to be in place when the ship docks at Immingham. All we hope is that is some sort of deal is worked out. Clearly it’s in no one’s interest for there to be no deal.”
Like Toyota, Kia Europe-wide has been bucking the trend posting another year of sales increases and already has an order bank of 10,000 this year.
Artur Martins, marketing chief at Kia Motors Europe, said: “New Ceed is doing very well for us, reinforced by the launch of the Proceed shooting brake and we have a further addition in the summer with the crossover body style.
“The new e-Niro is also doing very well for us and we have pretty much sold out of our allocation for the year. We would like to get more but the bottleneck is battery supply.”