It seems European consumers were feeling pretty flush after Christmas as new car registrations (sales) across the EU and EFTA countries (Norway, Iceland and Switzerland) shot up 6.3% on last year in January. Almost all the big automakers felt the benefit – sales were up 14.4% at Fiat Chrysler, 12.2% at Vauxhall owner Opel, and 11.4% at Ford.
Unsurprisingly given its high-profile emissions scandal, Volkswagen is looking less fortunate. Though its group-wide sales eked up 1% (thanks to a 14% surge at Audi), sales of its core VW marque slumped 4% to 128,000 units. Sales of its Seat and Porsche brands plunged 8.8% and 5.5% respectively as well, but whether that was linked to its battered reputation isn’t clear.
Europe’s biggest carmaker has been suffering since it admitted to cheating environmental assessments by installing so-called ‘defeat devices’ to make its cars behave differently under test conditions. The news wiped billions off VW’s market cap and though that has recovered since, it’s still down 30% on where it was before the scandal broke. A further 2.3% slump this morning doesn’t help either.
It’s worth noting that Renault also had a pretty bad month. The French company has been on the receiving end of similar, if less serious allegations, about the way its particulate filters work, and its sales crept up just 1% as well.
VW will be hoping to put the scandal behind it as soon as possible but awkward details continue to crop up. Over the weekend it was hit by the publication of a letter warning bosses about the emissions cheating, apparently sent more than a year before the scandal came to light.
With several ongoing investigations across the world and the US Environmental Protection Agency’s massive $46bn (£32bn) lawsuit against the company, VW will not be able to forget about its wrongdoing any time soon.