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The margins of German auto giants suffer from their rivalry

The margins of German auto giants suffer from their rivalry

The number of new car registrations rose 3.7% in October. The market benefits from Chinese and American demand.

An autumn sun shines on the German car market. With 275,400 units, new car registrations rose 3.7% in Germany in October, according to the federal agency KBA. This good result confirms the positive trend that emerged last September, with a 5% increase in new registrations, while the month of August had stalled.

Since the beginning of the year, Germany has registered 2.6 million new car registrations. According to the president of the German automobile federation, Matthias Wissmann, these data underline the stability of the national market, driven by a dynamic Chinese and American demand, while “the [development] potential remains important for the West, ” he said in a statement.

At the same time, BMW has released results that somewhat reinforce these optimistic prospects: despite a slight decline in net income in the third quarter, the world’s top-of-the-range, has improved its results in all its divisions – auto, motorcycle, financial services – and posted an operating profit up 17% to 2.3 billion.

However, the euphoria is not on the agenda side experts on the German automotive market. “There is only a slight respite was expected, in a persistently difficult environment,” Judge Stefan Bratzel, Director of the Center of Automotive at Bergisch Gladbach. At the end of the 90s, the new registrations were close to the 4 million vehicles per year in Germany. Today, we will probably reach 3 million. These figures reveal how saturated the market is today.


A market that suffers from overcapacity, causing intense competition between manufacturers. “Manufacturers and dealers are looking to attract customers by offering discounts that range from 20 to 25% on average by brand and model,” says automotive specialist Ferdinand Duddenhöffer. These practices artificially inflate sales and reduce margins. The dynamics are skewed, the German market is not doing so well. ”

Thus, according to a study of the Center Automotive Research of the University of Duisburg and Essen, the margins achieved this year by the German premium trio (Mercedes, BMW, Audi) on their models have decreased significantly compared to the good years according to the crisis of 2008. In 2011, a Mercedes reported 3 760 euros to the group of Stuttgart, against 3 370 today; a BMW 4,480 euros against 3,555 this year, and an Audi 3,054 euros against 2,949 euros in 2014.

Like BMW, which saw sales of its X5 explode by 34% in the third quarter, premium German tenors have managed to defend their positions by rushing into the SUV segment (utility and sports models). But a slowdown in demand overseas or in China could herald the beginning of winter. And the German market, first in Europe, would soon be cold.