Even though the downturn on Germany's car market continued last year, importers are cautiously hopeful about the prospects for the current year.
The French have the best chance of success in 2002 with their popular Peugeot
Car importers in Germany are looking forward hopefully, despite the latest signs of a continued downturn in the market. "We are expecting the market to stabilize at around 3.35 million new registrations in 2002," said Volker Lange, president of the VDIK car importer federation.
In 2001, new registrations totaled 3.34 million. The market share of foreign car makers is seen to rise again slightly this year to around one third. Incoming orders for foreign cars had been clearly stronger over the past few months than for their German competitors, Lange said.
But even the importers are convinced that 2002 will be a difficult year for the car industry. "There are dark clouds on the horizon and nobody knows in which direction the journey is going," said Lange.
The VDA association of car producers expressed still greater skepticism and forecast a decline in new registrations over the next twelve months. VDA president Bernd Gottschalk will present the association's concrete forecast for the year at the end of January.
Diesel cars continued to gain in popularity on the German market last year. Their share of new registrations last year rose to 34.7% from 22.4% in 2001. Lange believes the boom will continue in the current year.
Among the importers, it was mainly French car makers who were able to benefit from this trend. French marques once again came in top of the import league in 2001, ahead of Japan.
On balance, the German car market performed below manufacturers' expectations. New registrations last year fell by more than 1%. In western Germany, new registrations were down 0.7%, while in the eastern part of the country they fell as much as 4%.
The commercial-vehicles market also underwent a clear decline last year, with new registrations falling 5.7%. Lange sees few signs of a recovery in this segment in 2002. "We are expecting registrations in all weight categories to continue to decline, by more than 7% to 275,000 units," he said.