Nissan, Renault Guardedly Optimistic as European Market Cools Down

For the first half of 2010, Renault SA and Nissan Motor Company were among the top-selling brands in Europe.

According to data compiled by the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA), Nissan’s sales volume for the six-month period increased 32.4% to 211,821 vehicles. The increase was attributed, in part, to strong demand for Nissan’s Qashqai crossover model which increased by 56% to 117,270 units sold compared with 75,122 units sold during the same six month period a year earlier.

In a statement, Nissan’s vice president of European sales and operations Bernard Loire said, “Qashqai volumes are still booming and the arrival of Juke strengthens the Nissan crossover family with more than 15,000 pre-orders in one month.” Qashqai sales for June alone reached 23,852 units.

ACEA also reported that Renault’s sales during the six-month period increased 20.7% to 643,370 units on strong sales of the Scenic minivan and Megane compact car. The company’s economy brand, Dacia, also saw its sales grow by 19.1% to 139,643 units through June, driven by brisk sales of its Duster Sports Utility Vehicle.

Combined sales for the Japanese-French partnership accounted for 13.3% of all sales in the European market during the first half of the year. During the same six-month period last year, Renault-Nissan’s combined sales made up 10.9% of all European sales.

Volkswagen AG’s seven brands accounted for 21% of European sales during the January – June period with PSA/Peugeot-Citroen SA sales accounting for 13.7% of all sales in the market.

June was a tough month for most automakers in the European market as the number of new car registrations fell for a third consecutive month. Hardest hit were Ford Motor Company, Fiat S.p.A. and Toyota Motor Corporation. Demand has been steadily declining since a number of government scrapping programs ended.

According to ACEA, new car registrations in June fell 6.2% from a year earlier and deliveries during the first six months rose by a modest 0.6% to 7,495,520 vehicles.

Nomura Securities analyst Mike Tyndall said, “The biggest year-on-year declines have been in Germany and Italy, which is clearly down due to incentives no longer being around. It’s a reversal of 2009, when Europe was stronger than other developed markets thanks to scrappage payments.”

Although government incentive programs have been credited with softening the blow of last year’s economic downturn, Tyndall said, “You reap what you sow.”

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