Strong demand in the European Union’s top five automotive markets drove new car sales in the region up 6.9% in April, buoyed by demand for some budget brands and sport-utility vehicles, according to data published Tuesday by the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association.
New car sales in the EU and EFTA, which includes Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, rose to 1.21 million vehicles in April from 1.13 million vehicles the year before. Car sales in the region rose 8.1% in the four months to April to 4.85 million vehicles.
“All major markets posted growth, contributing to the overall upturn of the EU market,” the association, known by its French initials ACEA, said in a statement.
French car maker Renault SA was the fastest-growing of Europe’s big volume brands, posting a sales increase in the region of 15.6% to 87,520 vehicles. In terms of growth, Renault raced past rival brands Volkswagen, Peugeot, Fiat, Ford and General Motors’ Opel.
Sales of namesake brands of German premium car makers BMW AG, Audi AG and Daimler AG were lackluster in April, but BMW’s boutique MINI brand and Daimler’s Smart brand each posted strong growth in the month. MINI sales in the EU/EFTA region are up 34% so far this year and Smart sales are up 49%.
Budget brands Skoda, the Czech car maker owned by Volkswagen AG, and Dacia, which is owned by Renault, outpaced the broader European car market in April, growing 10% and nearly 15% respectively.
Sport-utility vehicles continue to drive sales higher in Europe. Porsche, the sports car maker owned by Volkswagen AG, is getting a boost from its Macan compact SUV, driving Porsche’s European sales up 18.4% in April. Jeep, which is owned by Fiat Chrysler, is the fastest-growing brand in Europe so far this year. Sales rose 186% to 28,816 vehicles in the four months to April.
Demand is gaining strength from returning confidence in Italy and Spain, which are recovering from the eurozone debt crisis, and strong sales growth in the U.K., the EU’s second-largest car market after Germany. Car sales in Spain are up 24% so far this year, and up 16% in Italy and 6% in the U.K.