* Mercedes, BMW and Opel all see double-digit gains
* Germany "not out of the woods yet" -industry official
* Weak H1 doesn't reflect solid German fundamentals
By Christiaan Hetzner
FRANKFURT, Aug 2 A rise in premium car sales and
an extra working day helped Germany's auto market, the largest
in Europe, to grow slightly in July in another sign the worst
may be behind the industry.
Registrations of new cars in Germany rose 2.1 percent to
253,146 vehicles last month, according to official figures
published on Friday by the Federal Motor Transport Authority
The increase adds to evidence that the European car market,
where sales have dropped to a two-decade low, might have
"The German car market is not out of the woods yet, but July
is a good start for the stabilisation we expect in the second
half," said Matthias Wissmann, president of Germany's automotive
industry association VDA, who said that domestic orders had
risen 3 percent.
In the first half, the German car market shrank 8.1 percent,
according to KBA figures.
Sales in other major European markets have also shown signs
of stabilising at low levels. In France, volumes rose by 1
percent last month, while only falling 2 percent in Italy, the
smallest year-on-year drop since April 2011.
In Germany, Mercedes-Benz and BMW brand
registrations jumped by almost 13 percent in the month. Not all
premium carmakers performed well, though, with Audi
experiencing a 10 percent drop for the period.
Opel had an 11 percent bounce in July, beating a small gain
by rival Ford and Volkswagen's 5 percent drop.
Registrations can be an imperfect indicator for the health
of Germany's car market, since they can lag demand by around two
to three months. Also, automakers can boost their monthly
results by registering new cars to themselves.
But Germany's economic fundamentals, which include low
unemployment, rising wages and consumer confidence at its
highest level in nearly six years, should provide a positive
backdrop for the sector.
And there are some signs of underlying improvement.
According to Frankfurt-based market researcher Dataforce,
car sales to private households have improved on an adjusted
level for four straight months in the first half.