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The automotive sector does not see the end of the tunnel

The automotive sector is sinking into the doldrums. The European Manufacturers Association announced, on Wednesday April 20, a drop of more than 20% in the market in the whole of the European Union in March, compared to March 2021.

→ THE FACTS. Car sales plummeted 20% in Europe in March

The market fell by a third compared to March 2019 (the last year without Covid) and in the first three months of 2022 only 2.2 million vehicles passed. This is the worst year (apart from 2020) since these statistics were created in 1990. And no improvement is expected for the rest of the year.

All generalist manufacturers affected

Apart from a few luxury manufacturers with very low volumes, all are affected, especially the giants: Volkswagen saw its sales fall by 24%; Stellantis (Peugeot, Fiat, etc.), by 33%. The closures decided at the start of the health crisis in 2020 were followed by a severe shortage in the supply of semiconductors.

→ ANALYSIS. Semiconductor shortage could last until 2023

While it was hoped, at the beginning of 2021, that the production of semiconductors would be rapidly increased, the shortage is still felt. “There have been investments in the production of componentsreports Éric Champarnaud, of the firm C-Ways, but competition from other sectors, such as consumer electronics, remained strong. » The partial confinements in China, in particular in Shanghai, do not help a resumption of maritime traffic and therefore the routing of components manufactured in Asia.

Electric vehicles also affected

Russia’s war in Ukraine has disrupted supplies of raw materials and wiring harnesses. If, until then, manufacturers took advantage of shortages to direct their customers to electrified – and more profitable – models, these models have in turn been affected. Renault, for example, at the same time as it is launching its new electric Mégane with fanfare, has resolved to stop the Douai (North) factory for eleven days, where it is assembled, for lack of components.

Electric vehicles therefore do not benefit from the sharp rise in fuel prices, which penalizes internal combustion vehicles, especially since a consumer who plans to buy an electrified model engages in a psychological process that takes time: which is necessary to consider how to recharge your vehicle, make long journeys, etc.

“Fateful threshold”

Manufacturers claim that production difficulties have prevented them from selling a million vehicles. ” I have doubtsabout this numberresumes Éric Champarnaud. In March, households deserted the concessions. »

The lack of vehicles prompted manufacturers to raise prices to preserve their margins, to the point that they became very high. “We may have passed the fateful threshold beyond which consumers can no longer replace their car”, sums up Éric Champarnaud.

The second-hand market affected in turn

While the second-hand market has largely benefited from the problems with new construction in 2020 and 2021, it is in turn affected, falling by more than 11% over the first three months of the year, in France. Backed by the new market, it suffers its negative impacts with a delay: fewer new vehicles sold, fewer recent second-hand vehicles available, and skyrocketing prices. This should reinforce the wait-and-see attitude of consumers.

“A scenario seeing a chain of inflation, an increase in rates and growth that topples over is not to be excluded.warns Éric Champarnaud. We would then go from the current gloom to a real collapse. » According to the forecaster, the French market could drop by 10% in 2022, with only 1.5 million vehicles sold.


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