At 86 million units/year, October’s Global Light Vehicle (LV) sales rate was in line with the previous month, according to analysis by LMC Automotive (a GlobalData company).
A global market forecast of 81.6 million units in 2022 would be stable compared to 2021 and some 9.5% below the 2019 level (just over 90 million). However, the situation globally is somewhat mixed, with a strong rebound in China (as parts shortages ease) contrasting with sluggish sales in Europe and North America. The outlook everywhere is subject to growing concerns about the outlook for the global economy as well as other risks and uncertainties.
LMC Automotive’s latest forecast for 2023 points to a global light-duty vehicle market of 84.6 million, barely an improvement on an already depleted base.
October’s gross sales result of 7.1 million units represented a 10% year-on-year (YTD) improvement, bringing the year-to-date (YTD) figure to around -1% , albeit from an already weak 2021 base.
Although China is experiencing a third consecutive month of slowing sales rates, year-to-date sales have increased by 8%. However, North America and Europe continue to struggle year-to-date as supply constraints hamper performance before macroeconomic conditions deteriorate.
A summary of market developments in the regions of the world follows.
US light vehicle (LV) sales rose 12.1% year-on-year in October to 1.2 million units. This was the third straight month of year-on-year gains; however, this comparison is helped by a weak H2 2021, the start of the chip shortage. In terms of volume, October saw the highest sales since April. Additionally, the sales rate soared to 15.2 million units/year, the highest so far this year. Inventory levels were up 7.8% from last month, although these vehicles are more expensive, as average transaction prices rose 1.1% from the month to $46,120.
LV sales in Canada are estimated to have risen 1.2% year-on-year in October, to 134,000 units. The sell rate would have increased to 1.7 million units/year, the highest since January, but sell rates should be treated with caution in a limited supply environment. In Mexico, sales rose 19.1% year-on-year last month to 90,600 units, while the sales rate was 1.11 million units/year. The market continues to surprise on the upside despite economic headwinds.
The sales rate in Western Europe remained stable from September to October at 12.0 million units/year and ensured a slight improvement in the sales rate since the beginning of the year. In terms of gross monthly sales, October was up more than 12% year-on-year to just over 960,000 units, although that still leaves YTD earnings down nearly 10%. It remains clear that supply constraints continue to weigh on market results, even taking into account the deteriorating macroeconomic situation.
The sales rate in Eastern Europe was broadly in line with the previous month, at 2.9 million units/year, although October gross sales were still down 29% since the start of the month. ‘year. The war in Ukraine continues to restrict supplies, and with sales from Russia crushed by sanctions, both hamper business activity in the region.
According to preliminary data, the Chinese market continued to weaken after rebounding strongly in June and July, following the reopening of Shanghai. October’s sales rate of 28.6 million units/year was 7.6% lower than September’s, the third consecutive monthly decline. However, the average sales rate since the beginning of the year reached 27.6 million units/year. In annual terms, gross sales grew only 8.2% in October (partly due to a high base effect), compared to annual growth of around 30% in each of the previous four months .
Apparently, sales were somewhat impacted by sporadic COVID-19 outbreaks and lockdowns in several parts of the country. It was reported that OEMs cut production in October from September levels. Nonetheless, NEV sales remained robust. BEV and PHEV sales were up 67% and 150% year-on-year, respectively, in October. Total EV and PHEV sales reached nearly 5.3 million units in the first ten months of this year.
Sales in Japan rebounded strongly after a sharp slowdown. The pace of October sales reached 4.7 million units/year, up nearly 17% compared to a weak September. On an annual basis, sales rose by double digits for the second consecutive month in October, helped by an easing in global supply chain disruptions. EV sales, however, have slowed as the government budget for EV subsidies runs out.
The Korean market remained robust in October as the supply situation continued to improve and OEMs ramped up production ahead of the expiry of the temporary reduction in excise duties on passenger vehicles at the end of this month. year. October’s sales rate of 1.7 million units/year was slightly lower than September’s of 1.74 million units/year, but it was a good result. It appears that all Korean OEMs managed to normalize production at their domestic factories in October, emerging from the purchasing slump.
Brazilian LCV sales rose 11.8% year-on-year in October to 168,000 units, while sales pace slowed to 2.01m units/year from 2.10m units /year in September. The results have been somewhat disappointing: year-on-year growth has been much stronger in recent months, even though the market was weak in October 2021, providing a low base. The presidential run-off may have distracted consumers, particularly towards the end of the month when sales slowed.
In Argentina, sales are estimated to have increased by 18.4% year-on-year in October, reaching 30,000 units, while the sales rate increased to 396,000 units/year, from 338,000 units/year in September . While this was a stronger result than September, underlying conditions remain challenging. High inflation, rising interest rates and import restrictions are keeping the market well below historical levels.
OPINION – Just Auto editor David Leggett adds:
Market geography has never been more important – at first sight – than it is today. Mature markets and non-mature markets highlight very divergent trends that will shape the operational performance of companies in the sector.
Companies such as Volkswagen will benefit from stronger sales in China (although Covid-related lockdown reversals are still a major risk there and the rebound ran out of steam in October). Others (notably Japanese OEMs) will see their volumes increase thanks to higher sales in other Asian markets, particularly in Southeast Asia. But limited supply issues remain an issue in mature markets such as North America and Western Europe. Additionally, the overall decline in the global volume pie remains significant, with the 2022 global market below 82 million and around 14% below the 2017 peak, when it appeared to be heading inexorably towards 100 million per year.
There are indications, however, that the worst of the semiconductor shortage is now behind us with a gradual easing in prospect. One of the benefits of backed up orders is that activity in factories can be “smoothed out” just as the focus shifts to broader demand concerns and slowing economies due to a toxic combination rising energy prices, falling household incomes, higher interest rates and significant ongoing geopolitical concerns. (all of which should be with us in 2023).
The outlook for demand at this point in what would normally be a relatively familiar industrial cycle is disappointing. LMC Automotive’s latest forecast for 2023 points to a global light-duty vehicle market of 84.6 million, barely an improvement on an already depleted base.
The big question is: will companies need to make significant changes to their global manufacturing footprint? That hasn’t really happened yet, but the drop in volumes from 2019 is significant and tinkering with the model mix has its limits as demand weakens. OEMs will be reluctant to act, but the pressures will increase next year, especially if risks start to rise in the 2024 outlook. If divergent global market trends continue, mature markets will feel the pressure the most.
In the background, trends towards more automation and factories that require fewer workers to assemble electric vehicles will add to the general feeling that a shake-up is coming. No one ultimately wants to be a latecomer to adjustment – the pain could be greater if there was a competitive loss in addition to an industry loss.
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