The car industry was hit hard by the recession, and the recovery has been slower than predicted. In 2012 business was still technically in decline, although the European Central Bank (ECB) was already predicting that 2014 would be a year of initial growth. It would seem that the prediction was accurate.
In 2012, Bloomberg reported that car sales were at their lowest for 19 years, with Peugeot, Renault and Fiat suffering the biggest losses. Switzerland, Norway and Iceland saw a drop of 10%, which according to the ACEA, was the lowest figure since 1994. French producers saw occasional increases in the market, but margins remained incredibly low, and Fiat did badly, dropping at one stage by 6.4%. BMW were the only manufacturer to increase sales consistently, sometimes with rises of just 0.4%. As the world's largest car manufacturer, these figures were still not wholly encouraging. Volkswagen recorded a drop of 2.5%, and the luxury Audi line dropped by 2.3% suggesting that those with money were still happy to spend.
Daimler AG, who own the Mercedes-Benz brand, saw a sales increase of 1.5%, again showing that the market for expensive cars was still growing even through the downturn. A downturn in which four out of five of Europe's main auto markets shrank during 2012.
This year the BBC have been bold enough to suggest that the job cuts and careful budgets of the last few years may be fading into the past. The Frankfurt Motor Show got underway with a spirit of optimism, alongside the news that share prices in the auto-trade have increased for the first time in years.
Car sales in Europe are on the rise once again. MSN Cars found that the market in Italy has increased substantially, an encouraging sign in a country that was one of the worst hit by the recession. January of last year was the fifth month of consistent growth on the international market. Portugal and Ireland have seen the most growth, with increased sales of 31.8% and 32.8% respectively. This is excellent news for leading car portals who have all invested heavily in 2014 with new TV campaigns already live for both Motors.co.uk and Autotrader.co.uk.
The UK was up 7.6%, just ahead of Germany, with 7.2%. New car registrations have gone up across the board, showing that buyers are once again buying new cars rather than purchasing second hand models.
The head of Ford, Roelant de Waard, has officially stated that "the worst is over". Although the growth has largely been assisted by government subsidies, it is believed that both the sales and employment sectors are now more stable. Figures from this January show a less volatile market. Small consistent increases are better than huge leaps in sales in the long run and most manufacturers will be able to breathe a sigh of relief.