European new-car sales have fallen to the lowest level in more than a decade while American new-car sales have been recovering. Over the last year, sales have increased in only three of the 20 largest countries in the European Union — Britain, Hungary and Denmark. In none of them have sales risen as rapidly as in the United States.
Historically, car sales are a good leading indicator of the economy, so a continuing downturn in new car sales in Europe speaks volumes. The UK, Denmark, and Hungary are not in the eurozone: they have their own currencies and are avoiding the worst of the euro debacle.
When connecting car sales directly to economic development, we tend to miss the much deeper change in how new generations of urban people relate to cars which is probably having deeper and more long term effects on how car sales develop from now on. This is of course having a faster effect in Europe which is both more urbanized and where people don’t have as deep and emotional relations cars as American tend to have.
Futuramb doesn’t address the jump in Britain, Denmark, and Hungary. Aren’t they urbanized? I think it’s the euro that’s making the difference.
I don’t disagree that economics has a direct impact but I would still argue that it is far from the whole story. The problem is to find evidence on how much effect cultural or other value changes have. I think that the sociocultural driver on car sales have very different impact on different European countries, but might be very important when comparing US car sales, where the car is deeper embedded in the culture than in most European countries, and car sales in Europe.