By David Sachs

 

Volkswagen and BMW sales rose in 2023 but analysts predict a tougher road ahead for the European car industry.

BMW said Tuesday that it sold more vehicles than ever last year--about 2.6 million--which is 6.5% higher than the year before. Volkswagen Group, which includes businesses like Audi and Porsche as well as its namesake brand, said deliveries jumped 12% to about 9.2 million.

But analysts say that the good times for the European--and global--car industry are sputtering. Production growth, revenue and margins are expected to fall in 2024 after the last few years saw limited supply from pandemic supply-chain problems and, later, the release of pent-up demand, Bernstein analysts said in a research note.

"For the past three years, the automotive industry has been in a Goldilocks state, with constrained supply supporting prices, margins, and profits," Bernstein analysts said in a research note. "In 2024, this period is finally coming to an end across all three major markets…the three bears are coming home."

Volkswagen hit its group-delivery target for the year despite little growth in China--the largest global car market--where unit sales rose 1.6% to about 3.2 million. Audi was a bright spot in China for the German carmaker, with sales jumping 13.5%, the company said.

"While the situation will remain demanding over the next two years, we are further developing our technological capabilities and setting up our business for the future," said Volkswagen Group China CEO Ralf Brandstaetter.

Car companies could also suffer in the electric vehicle space, the industry's largest growth area, HSBC analysts said in a research note. Lagging demand, heightened competition and lower government subsidies this year could put the squeeze on European electric-car makers, HSBC said, pushing prices down and making it difficult to protect margins without selling more cars.

"While original equipment manufacturers appear to be tempering their [battery-electric vehicle] penetration ambitions, they may not be able to fully pursue a 'value over volume' strategy for BEVs, for a host a reasons, not least of which is the threat from more price aggressive new entrants," HSBC said.

Still, BMW on Tuesday confirmed its 2024 sales target of more than 500,000 electric vehicles.

 

Write to David Sachs at david.sachs@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 09, 2024 10:10 ET (15:10 GMT)

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