Motoring: Who Are the European Car-Buying Champs? ; as Car Makers and Importers Reveal How They Fared Last Year, a Surprising Picture Emerges from the Statistics
Wilkins, David, The Independent (London, England)
Who buys the most cars in Europe? You will not be surprised to learn that the Germans bought 3.2 million cars in 2003, more than the citizens of any other European country, and by a substantial margin. The UK market - as the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders trumpeted in a recent press release - was a strong second. The British bought a record 2.6 million cars last year, comfortably beating our nearest rivals, the Italians, who bought 2.3 million, and the French, who bought two million. A total of 1.4 million were sold in Europe's fifth most populous country, Spain. As a point of comparison, only about 360,000 new cars found a home in Poland, the largest of the countries due to join the European Union later this year.
So far, so predictable. It is not much of a surprise to find that we play second fiddle to Germany, a country with about 20 million more citizens than the UK, that is also home to autobahns without speed limits and some of the strongest car manufacturers on the planet. The Volk still like their wagens. But it is startling to see that we are buying more cars than those passionate motorists, the Italians, and, dare we admit it, deeply satisfying to beat the French at something at last. Their motor industry went from strength to strength while ours went into apparently interminable decline. They bombarded the market with a succession of irresistibly appealing, stylish small cars such as the Renault 5 and the Peugeot 205. We came up with the Allegro and the Maestro before running out of ideas.
However, there is another intriguing story in all these numbers, at least as far as Europe's "big six" (France, the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain and Poland) are concerned.
Compared with the relevant national population figures, the the car buying league table are rather different. On, this population- based measure, it is not the Germans who are the car-buying champs - at least among the "big six" - but the Brits. As the chart shows, last year, the British bought 43.5 cars per thousand of population, about 11 per cent more than the Germans, who bought just 39.2 cars per thousand.
Indeed, in 2003 the Germans were actually beaten into third place by the Italian car buying public, who bought 39.3 cars per thousand people. The German car companies are still making plenty of vehicles: it's just that other nations are buying more of them. The biggest maker in Europe is still the Volkswagen Group. VW Group sold a massive 2.6 million cars last year, down 2.5 per cent on 2002, but enough to maintain its position as the largest player on the Continent. We can expect VW to consolidate its lead in 2004 as the new Golf 5 starts selling in big numbers and its Skoda, Seat and Audi cousins come on stream.
Here's another surprise. The Spanish, buoyed by their strong economy, are now in the process of overtaking the French at the car- buying game; last year, they bought 33.9 cars per thousand of population, compared with 33.7 for the French. The land of the Seat Marbella comes good.
The figures also provide sobering evidence of the huge gap in living standards between the established EU members and the eastern European countries that will join later this year. The British bought more than four times as many cars in relation to their population as the Poles did in 2003 But, as any recent visitor to Poland will tell you, the gap does not feel quite as large as the bald figures suggest, because so many good second-hand Western cars are sold into the Polish market, especially from neighbouring Germany. Expect the Poles to start catching up quickly as their markets open up and the benefits of Eu membership make themselves felt. Already the traditional Polski Fiat and FSO Polonez cars are becoming a rarer sight in Polish cities.
And the overall European car buying picture does not change much if we include the smaller …
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Publication information: Article title: Motoring: Who Are the European Car-Buying Champs? ; as Car Makers and Importers Reveal How They Fared Last Year, a Surprising Picture Emerges from the Statistics. Contributors: Wilkins, David - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: January 24, 2004. Page number: 9. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.