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THE WEEK THAT WAS: Germany bucks gloomy Europe trend

By Simon Warburton | 13 April 2012

It's been a stellar week for German automakers, who continue to defy the gravitational pull downwards of just about all their European competitors. 

Both Volkswagen and BMW posted record sales with the former boosting first quarter sales by 10.5%, delivering more than 1.36m cars for the first time in Q1.

Meanwhile, down the road in Munich, fellow mega-brand, BMW, revealed it had had a record March, selling more than in any other month in its history, with volume up 12% year-on-year to nearly 186,000 vehicles. The Q1 wasn't too shabby either - up 11.2% to almost 426,000 models.

Contrast that with an overall weak European performance - Germany excepted of course - that saw last Month witness the sixth consecutive month of year-on-year decline - a poor fall of 7.1%.

However, even those disappointing numbers were dwarfed by troubled Italy that saw sales plummet by a whopping 27%. Italy - with its ruinous debt problem - has seen plunging consumer confidence also battered by a transport lorry drivers strike that has crippled deliveries. 

Away from the bald numbers, Iranian producer, IKCO had some better news after being the target of a concerted campaign in the US to end its relationship with PSA Peugeot Citroen. The Iranian automaker said it would introduce XUM engines in place of XU7 powerplants in its Samand and Peugeot 405 sedans to make them compliant with Euro IV emisions rules.

The interminable saga that is Saab refuses to go quietly, with news of three reported bids believed to have been submitted to the Gothenburg receivers, while former Enterprise Minister, Maud Olofsson, has been summoned to appear before the Swedish Parliamentary Constitutional Committee to discuss the Ministry's actions with Russian businessman, Vladimir Antonov.

Over the pond in the US auto heartland of Michigan, General Motors' alternative energy test chamber in Warren suffered a huge explosion following an extreme battery test that saw several injuries and the temporary closure of the plant. 

"Chemical gases from the battery cells reached an unknown ignition source, igniting gases and causing an explosion," fire commissioner Wilburt 'Skip' McAdams told just-auto from the City of Warren fire department. However, it appears some previous smart thinking by Skip and his department ensured the design of GM's building drastically reduced casualties. 

Powering back across the Atlantic, PSA Peugeot Citroen denied CEO Philippe Varin had been summoned to see French President Nicolas Sarkozy concerning rumours around the C3-producing plant at Aulnay. And just ten days before the first round of the French Presidential elections too - fancy that.

In Hungary, Johnson Controls launched production at a new seating facility in Kecskemet, with the just-in-time plant supplying complete seat systems for the new Mercedes-Benz B-Class.

After a balmy March in the UK, it's a return now to more good old-fashioned British weather: I drove to work this morning in frost and fog can you believe.

I'm already on tenterhooks - what is a tenterhook? - as my English Championship-topping football team Southampton, play second place Reading this evening. Given the fact we were minus 10 points and bottom of what I would call the third division two seasons ago, I'm going to big them up.

There, that's put the kibosh on it, we're bound to lose.

Have a peaceful weekend.

Simon Warburton, business editor, just-auto


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