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Auto Industry

German carmakers fare well in US market

Figures for car sales in the United States have shown robust growth among German carmakers as more Americans can afford to buy new vehicles, while demand in Germany itself has dropped dramatically over the past year.

BMW stock went up on Wednesday after news that the German car manufacturer saw robust sales growth in the United States, while demand for new cars in Europe remained low.

The Bavarian carmaker sold 33,100 cars in the United States in March, an increase of 11.2 percent over March 2012, according to figures released on Tuesday. Investors welcomed the news, pushing BMW shares up around 1 percent at the opening of trading on Wednesday.

Audi's US sales also saw a double-digit percentage increase in March, growing 14.4 percent to 13,300 cars. Germany's largest carmaker, Volkswagen, sold 37,700 units in March, an increase of 3.1 percent.

The most impressive growth among German carmakers came from Porsche, which is owned by VW. The luxury sports brand sold 41.7 percent more cars in the US last month than March 2012. However Porsche's market share remained small, with only 3,500 cars sold.

Much of the growth among German carmakers outpaced US competitors GM and Ford, whose sales shot up 6.4 percent and 5.7 percent, respectively. Analysts attributed the broad growth in US demand to tax refunds, generally low interest rates and attractive new models hitting the market.

The March figures came as consulting firm Ernst & Young released a study on Wednesday that found German auto manufacturers have increased their sales by 78 percent over the last decade. Among the world's 17 largest carmakers, German firms VW, Daimler and BMW also saw the greatest increase in revenues before taxes and interest, earning 281 percent more in 2013 than 2003. US carmakers saw a revenues increase by 131 percent, while earnings among Japanese companies fell by 8 percent, attributable to business disruptions by the earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

Paltry demand in Europe

The US figures stood in stark contrast to Europe, where sales have dropped significantly. Consumers in France bought 16.4 percent fewer cars last month than in March 2012, while sales in Spain fell 13.9 percent. The drop in Italy, the fourth-largest car market in Europe, was more moderate, at 4.9 percent.

Car sales in Germany, Europe's largest economy, fell dramatically over the past year. Only about 281,200 cars were registered in March - 17.1 percent fewer than the same month last year, according to the official KBA agency. The first three months of 2013 combined saw 12.9 percent fewer car sales than the same time period in 2012.

The Germany-based Association of International Motor Vehicle Manufacturers (VDIK) said the poor sales were due in part to the fact that March this year had two fewer working days than last year.

"The additional working days in April could contribute to improved results, but all together the motor vehicle industry will still face many challenges in 2013," said VDIK President Volker Lange.

acb/jr (Reuters, dpa)