According to GlobalData, the Western Europe car market slipped back in March to 11.3 million units/year. The Western Europe new car (Passenger Vehicle – PV) selling rate slipped back in March, to 11.3 million units/year, with 1.3 million vehicle registrations – in YoY terms, this is 2.5% below March 2023. Despite this negative result, YTD sales grew by 4.7%, helped by strong growth for the first three months in France, Italy, and the UK, along with mostly positive results in other countries. Thanks to a more supportive supply environment, the Western Europe PV market is forecast to surpass 12 million units in 2024, which would be the strongest annual result since the COVID-19 pandemic. The UK PV market improved well in March, with 318k vehicles registrations – 10.4% higher YoY, with the fleet side of the market performing strongly. Meanwhile, the German PV market registered 264k units, a 6.2% decrease compared to 2023, but YTD sales improved by 4.2%. The other major West European countries saw declining sales in March with Easter falling earlier this year than last, although their YTD sales also increased. The outlook for 2024 remains broadly in line with the previous update to this report. Although the macroeconomic outlook appears subdued across the region, fading supply issues and assumed vehicle price easing this year should support the market, even though previous monetary tightening will at as an ongoing drag, and geopolitical risks have the potential to undermine the baseline forecast.

India levels off

GlobalData analysis suggests that market demand in India is now levelling off and that stocks are high. India’s Light Vehicles (LV) market has demonstrated resilience and growth, with sales reaching 426k units in February, a 10% increase year-on-year (YoY). However, this figure represented a 5% decline month-on-month (MoM), as OEMs had replenished their inventory in January following a destocking exercise at the end of 2023. Wholesales of Passenger Vehicles (PVs) stood at 364k units (-6% MoM, +11% YoY). Meanwhile, sales of Light Commercial Vehicles (LCVs) with GVW up to 6T were 62k units, showing a 1% increase both MoM and YoY. Subsequently, the selling rate reached a robust 4.8 million units/year in February after soaring to a near-record high of 5.1 million units/year in January. As observed in previous months, SUVs remained the key driver of the market. To date, numerous updates to SUV models, including the refreshed versions of the popular Hyundai Creta and Kia Sonet (both are Sub-Compact SUVs) have sustained this momentum in sales. Discounts and incentives also helped OEMs move weak-selling models, such as Mini Cars and older vehicles (including SUVs).

Argentina rising?

The Argentine government has opened the door to higher vehicle sales with the removal of a key mandate. The automotive market in Argentina displays all the characteristics of your favourite rollercoaster, as the country saw its sales reach 769k units in 2018, before dropping to 322k units in 2020 due to headwinds associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and the semiconductor and parts shortages. The country has been constantly grappling with economic issues that have put a strain on its citizens and Light Vehicle (LV) sales. Recent developments in the economic outlook for the country could disrupt the auto industry, even as the government has opened the door to higher vehicle sales with the removal of a key mandate. Just as it seems that Argentina has overcome one set of issues, another set of factors arise and continue to challenge the country. Javier Milei won Argentina’s presidential election in December 2023, and since entering office, he has proposed extreme policies that have added to the uncertainty of the outlook for 2024. Examples of such controversial proposals are to shut down the central bank and to “dollarize” the Argentinian economy, by transitioning from the Argentinian peso to the US Dollar. Consumers continue to struggle with elevated inflation levels, as inflation hit 276.2% in February 2024, and the rate is expected to remain in triple-digit territory for the remainder of 2024. Forecasts indicate that the country may fall further into negative territory before positive results emerge, as the GDP growth forecast for 2024 indicates that the economy will shrink by 4.2%. The economy is expected to see growth in 2025, as GDP is predicted to expand by 4.6%, once the country has adjusted to some of the measures put in place by the government. Among the president’s package of reforms, in December the administration lifted the import restrictions impacting the auto market. The policy was put in place by the previous government as a way to build the country’s foreign currency reserves. However, the move had unintended consequences. The restrictions discouraged many OEMs from importing vehicles into Argentina, as it is costly for the automakers to import their vehicles and components. This gave the manufacturers who already had a strong production presence in the country an advantage. So, will the change bring positive results for the Argentine auto industry?

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There’s a certain inevitability about autonomous drive tech and the eventual arrival of robotaxis. It sounds like the logical destination for the – albeit complex – technological journey. Getting there, though, is not so easy. The limited pilot testing so far hasn’t exactly gone completely to plan. General Motors’ Cruise unit is on a long road back to reclaiming its driverless car permit in California after an incident in October 2023 involved a Cruise vehicle hitting a pedestrian. A Waymo robotaxi recently hit a difficult to see cyclist in San Francisco. Cue a media fuss. There’s a kind of paradox at work here. Human error accounts for most road traffic accidents. Automated systems are able to almost wipe those accident scenarios out completely, in theory, potentially resulting in far fewer human casualties. But the key word there is almost. We’re setting a very high benchmark indeed for Level 4 and 5 autonomous vehicles.


Can on-board diagnostics (OBD) technology help with vehicle maintenance lifecycles? Car owners are becoming the forgotten piece in vehicle maintenance, with many simply taking their car to a garage when any issue comes up. Could on-board diagnostics (OBD) technology help? Engine warning lights, strange noises, clunky driving – a car owner’s nightmare of undiagnosed faults and unknown repair needs ahead. Issues with your vehicle can start to spiral into stress and anxiety around what the causes could be, potential fix costs and repair timelines. What if these stresses and fears could be managed? Cartech company, Carly, connects drivers with information that is hidden in their vehicles via an on-board diagnostics (OBD) device. Once plugged in and connected the scanner provides general diagnosis, battery life information, live data, and maintenance information – allowing users to better manage maintenance needs. We spoke to Dan Meeghan, UK country manager, Carly, to learn more about the company and the benefits the technology can offer to car owners and mechanics.

Power tailgate, sir?

Supplier Brose has started producing a system for power opening and closing of truck tailgates, saying it “opens up a promising growth segment for the family owned company in North America. “With a market share of around 20%, pickups are the most popular vehicles in the US.” The system includes a new drive, control unit and two latches with power cinching.

Isn’t Renesas fab?

Renesas Electronics said it had started operations at its Kofu factory, in Kai City, Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan to boost capacity for power semiconductors “in anticipation of the growing demand in electric vehicles (EVs)”. Kofu previously operated both 150mm and 200mm wafer fabrication lines under Renesas Semiconductor Manufacturing, a wholly owned subsidiary of Renesas, but ceased operations in October 2014. The supplier decided to re-open the factory in May 2022 as a 300mm wafer fab to support the growing demand for power semiconductors.

Kia pickup coming

Kia Corporation said it planned to enter the global pickup truck market in 2025 with the Tasman multi purpose model aimed at both the ‘working’ and ‘lifestyle’ sub-segments of the sector. Sister company Hyundai Motor launched its Alabama built Santa Cruz pickup in the US in 2021, a model based on the Tucson SUV chassis and also targeted at the lifestyle segment. The Tasman would enter an increasingly crowded market, where traditionally strong Japanese brands were struggling to make progress and Chinese companies were increasing their presence.

Tesla India plant at last?

Tesla’s billionaire owner Elon Musk said he planned to visit India later this month and meet with prime minister Narendra Modi to discuss setting up a car factory among other subjects, according to widespread reports citing sources “with direct knowledge of the matter”. The meeting between the two was understood to be scheduled for the week beginning 22 April in New Delhi after which Musk was expected to make a separate announcement about Tesla’s investment plans for India. The sources noted the travel schedule may be subject to last minute changes, however. Campaigning for the Indian general election was also scheduled to start this month, with Modi widely expected to win a rare third term in office. The announcement of a major investment by Tesla, which would create thousands of jobs, would be a major boost for his election campaign.

Nio in Germany

Chinese smart EV maker Nio opened its Smart Driving Technology Center in Schönefeld near Berlin this month, the first of its kind outside of China. There will be 25 onsite engineers working directly on the vehicles. Nio’s newest addition brings the firm’s total number of European R&D centres to five; it also has tech centres in Oxfordshire (just outside the city of Oxford), UK and Biatorbágy, Hungary. It opened its Innovation Centre in the centre of Berlin last year – and the latest one brings the total in Germany to three.

More Maruti capacity

Maruti Suzuki has commissioned another assembly line at its Manesar facility in northern India. According to Maruti, the new line at the firm’s largest plant will aim to produce 100,000 vehicles a year, bringing total manufacturing capability at the plant to 900,000 vehicles per annum.

China sales

Global sales of China-made vehicles rose by almost 10% to 2.69 million units in March 2024 from 2.45 million units a year earlier, according to passenger car and commercial vehicle wholesale data compiled by the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM). The market rebounded from a sharp decline in February, when deliveries were held back by the Lunar New Year holidays. Domestic economic growth in the country remains sluggish, however, with the property sector still struggling to recover from some largescale bankruptcies in previous years – meaning that the export sector was the main driver of growth in the first quarter of 2024. Overall vehicle sales rose by just under 11% to 6.72 million units in the first quarter from 6.08 million units in the same period of last year, including a 33% rise in exports to 1.32 million units. Sales of new energy vehicles (NEVs), comprising mainly battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), rose by 32% to 2.09 million units – including a 24% rise in exports to 307,000 units.

Kia China EV build

Kia Corporation has started production of its first battery electric vehicle (BEV) in China, the EV5 compact SUV, according to local reports citing industry sources. A joint venture plant in Yancheng, Jiangsu Province, was understood to have begun production of the EV5 for sale locally and for export initially to south east Asia countries such as Thailand, as well as Australia and New Zealand. Shipments to Latin America and the Middle East, including Mexico and Saudi Arabia, will follow.

Have a nice weekend.

Graeme Roberts, Deputy Editor, Just Auto