By Wolf Richter, San Francisco based executive, entrepreneur, start up specialist, and author, with extensive international work experience, who writes at Testosterone Pit.
As some readers have pointed out, there was a major problem in my last post, Deep Trouble at the Core of the Eurozone. I thank all commenters who criticized or defended my post, and I apologize for the errors it contained.
On March 1, I was working on a post on the hard-hit French auto industry and the deal between GM and PSA Peugeot Citroën when I came across an article in a German paper about a 30% drop in registrations in February in Germany. Surprised and shocked that sales would fall off a cliff like that, I checked www.KBA.de, the German federal office for motor vehicles, which publishes the vehicle registration numbers every month. But it didn’t have the February numbers yet.
That should have been a warning. Why would a newspaper reporter get the numbers before the government publishes them? But the decline was so sudden that I threw caution into the wind and changed the focus of my story. I was overly eager to be out in front of what seemed to be a significant development—without getting confirmation. A big and stupid mistake. I posted it on my blog on March 1.
The actual figures (PDF), when they were released on March 2, were flat for February year over year, and showed a 0.2% decline year to date. These numbers match the mildly mixed German economic data that has emerged recently. Overall, given the registrations so far this year, I don’t envision a major up or down move in Germany in the near term. In other EU countries, the recent and sometimes steep declines may continue for a while. Industry sales for the EU are expected to decline this year.
German automakers may be able to overcome any weakness in the EU with strong sales in the US and Asia (but sales in China, after years of phenomenal growth, are at risk of a setback).