Auto sales in Europe climbed for a fourth month in November as supply-chain issues continued to ease, though a worsening economic outlook threatens to hurt demand in the coming months.
New-car registrations rose 17% to more than 1 million vehicles last month, the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association said Thursday. Total sales are still down about 6% from the first 11 months of last year.
Deliveries have improved in recent months as shortages of semiconductors and other components improved. Order books have remained full, which should help earnings through early 2023. But the industry has yet to recover to pre-pandemic levels and probably won’t be able to avoid a third consecutive year of decline, according to Bloomberg Intelligence.
Analysts at LMC Automotive said they expect supply bottlenecks that have constrained production will ease throughout next year. The market researcher is less sanguine about demand, citing high rates of inflation, declining consumer confidence and stretched household budgets.
“We assume 2023 will comfortably outpace 2022, though we are a little more cautious,” the analysts said, trimming their sales forecast for Western Europe to below 11 million.
Some manufacturers are already raising alarm bells about the impact of spiraling inflation. Volkswagen AG flagged this week that electric-vehicle sales in Europe had “gone off track” in recent months as surging energy prices started hurting demand.
High-end luxury vehicles have been relatively resilient this year, and automakers are still benefiting from unfilled orders accumulated during the height of their supply-chain crises. Some manufacturers, including Stellantis NV, are still reporting logistics problems.
Kepler Cheuvreux expects an overall 5.3% drop in western European registrations for 2022, including a 15% decline for light commercial vehicles, which are typically more sensitive to macroeconomic deceleration. Registrations are likely to remain well below pre-pandemic levels next year, Kepler analysts wrote in a Dec. 13 note.
Registrations in November rose about 24% in the UK, 31% in Germany and 15% in Italy, the association said. VW was the standout performer last month with a 37% jump from a year ago.
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