Automotive markets

The continued moderate growth of the world economy was also reflected by slower growth in the global demand for cars. In a situation marked by very significant differences between regions, the global car market only expanded by approximately 3.5%, which was somewhat lower than what we had originally expected. (See graphic B.06)

Daimler AR2014 B.06 Global automotive markets

The Chinese and US markets once again made the biggest contribution to the growth in global car sales during the year under review. Car demand in China grew by approximately 10%. With a total sales volume of approximately 18 million units, China was able to strengthen its position as the world’s largest automobile market. Sales also developed very positively in the United States, where demand for cars and light trucks rose by nearly 6% to roughly 16.4 million units — the highest market volume since before the great financial crisis of 2006.

After several years marked in some cases by sharply contracting markets, demand for cars in Western Europe once again rose in 2014. The region was thus able to make a positive contribution to the development of the global car market. All in all, demand increased by nearly 5% over the prior year, although the development of individual markets varied greatly. Formerly crisis-ridden countries such as Spain and Portugal displayed clear signs of recovery and recorded double-digit sales increases. At the opposite end of the spectrum was the Netherlands, whose car market contracted by approximately 7%. Among the core markets, the UK once again displayed a particularly positive development, posting an increase of more than 9% in the year under review. Germany and Italy recorded moderate gains over the prior year, while the market in France stagnated.

Sales in Japan developed more positively than had been anticipated at the beginning of the year, with full-year sales rising slightly despite the value-added tax increase. With the exception of China, the most important emerging markets were characterized by difficult market conditions that were in some cases caused by very weak economies. India recorded the best performance here, as the market became somewhat more vibrant in the second half of 2014 so that car sales ended up slightly exceeding the figure recorded in the prior year. The car markets in Brazil and Russia contracted significantly, however.

With few exceptions, sluggish economic development also had a negative impact on global demand for medium-duty and heavy-duty trucks. Global market volume decreased by approximately 5% in 2014.

The key North American market was able to clearly buck the negative trend, however. Thanks to solid economic growth in the United States in particular, demand for Class 6–8 trucks increased by 13% in North America during the year under review. The Japanese market also performed well. Demand for light-, medium-and heavy-duty trucks in Japan was seemingly unaffected by the value-added tax increase and exceeded the prior-year level by approximately 17%. However, FUSO’s biggest sales market, Indonesia, contracted by more than 15% compared with 2013.

In Europe, demand for medium-duty and heavy-duty trucks was well below the prior-year level. The truck market in Europe contracted by roughly 8% due to the negative effects of new emission regulations (Euro VI) and the ongoing relative overall sluggishness of the region’s economies. The market in Brazil was subject to great pressure in the year under review. Here, a markedly weak economy and less favorable financing terms within the framework of the government’s FINAME program led to a 10% decline in demand.

The market in India, on the other hand, stabilized over the course of 2014, with the overall sales volume declining only slightly from the prior year. This was in marked contrast to the double-digit decreases that the market had suffered in previous years. The drop in demand in Russia was severe, however. According to recent forecasts, the economic crisis in the country caused the truck market to contract by more than 20%. Developments in China — the world’s largest truck-sales market — were negatively impacted by the controlled slowdown of economic growth and various regulatory measures. Total demand was significantly lower than in 2013. The expected effect of purchases being brought forward before the introduction of stricter emission regulations in January 2015 hardly materialized.

After two years of declining demand, the van market in Western Europe expanded again in 2014, with growth of 6% in the market volume for medium-sized and large vans. Demand for small vans also increased by 6%. Significant market recovery was observed in the countries of Southern European in particular. The market for large vans in the United States also expanded, while demand in the van segment that we specifically address in China also increased slightly. However, the unfavorable situation in Latin America led to a sharp decline in the market for large vans in that region.

The Western European market for buses did not match the already weak level of the previous year. The German coach segment was positively impacted by the expansion of long-distance bus services in the country. Demand for buses in Eastern Europe was well below the prior-year level, however. This negative development was largely due to the market contraction in Turkey, which we had anticipated. At the same time, the difficult economic situation in Brazil and Argentina led to a sharp decline in the bus market volume in Latin America as well.