The auto industry is a major source of global chemical demand.
Today, at the half-year point, the blog begins a 3-part series analysing auto sales trends in Europe (today), China (tomorrow) and total EU, China and USA sales (Thursday). Click here for current USA analysis.
For the past few months, Europe has seen a two-tier market develop. A few markets were very strong - Germany and the Netherlands, for example. But most were weak. Overall, volumes were therefore stable.
June, however, marks a potentially decisive break with this pattern. As ACEA (the European Automobile Manufacturers Association) comment:
"All important markets faced a downturn, leading to an overall 8.1% fall across the EU. Contractions ranged from -0.3% in Germany to -1.7% in Italy, -6.2% in the UK, -12.6% in France and -31.4% in Spain."
The severity of the downturn is shown in the above chart. June's sales (red square) were the lowest in the 2005-11 period. And a quick recovery is unlikely, as July and August are seasonally weak due to holidays.
The key question is whether demand will recover in September? Sadly, this is not guaranteed, given the depth of the Eurozone debt crisis.
Equally worrying, as the blog will discuss tomorrow, is that China also seems to have slowed.