VW’s European sales show biggest contraction since scandal

MILAN – The marquee Volkswagen brand was hit in January by its biggest drop in European sales since the German carmaker was engulfed in its diesel emissions scandal, according to industry data released Tuesday.

The European carmaker’s association, ACEA, reported that sales of Volkswagen brand cars dropped 3.8 per cent compared with a year earlier, putting a drag on deliveries for the group, which also includes the Audi, Porsche, Seat and Skoda brands.

Volkswagen group sales grew by just 0.8 per cent, seriously lagging a European market that rose 6.2 per cent for the 29th straight month of expansion. Nonetheless, it retained the largest market share of 24.2 per cent, eroded from 25.5 per cent.

IHS automotive analysts said that beyond the emissions scandal, the brand was also hampered by the age of key models like the Polo, Golf and Tiguan.

ACEA said overall sales in Europe in January of over 1 million cars were “encouraging for the near future, as the upward market trend remains stable.” Italy and Spain, hardest hit by the crisis that bottomed out European sales, drove the market.

Mass-market automakers Fiat Chrysler, Ford and Opel posted double-digit gains, with French competitors PSA Peugeot-Citroen and Renault lagging the market. Premium manufacturers BMW and Daimler grew by 4 per cent and 8.5 per cent, respectively.