Analysis

First-half global vehicle sales climbed 20.7%, compared with like-2009, however a second-quarter slowdown signaled some unsteadiness.

First-quarter deliveries jumped 27%, but the rate of improvement fell to 14.4% in the latter half of the first six months.

Volume sales have trended upward throughout the year, but with the exception of March, year-over-year comparisons have drawn closer each month. In January, deliveries were 33.6% ahead of prior-year, but by June the margin had dwindled to 12.3%.

The diminishing increases were due in part to growth in 2009, which raises the bar on year-ago comparisons. But as China’s market (up 23.5% in June) begins to normalize, the year-over-year performance decline questions how much acceleration North America (up 13.8%) and Europe (up 2.7%) can muster to sustain a meaningful recovery.

Current trendlines suggest monthly vehicle sales will draw even with 2009 results by the end of the 2010.

Related document: World Vehicle Sales Summary

June global sales totaled 6.5 million units, the second-highest monthly tally of 2010 and the fourth consecutive month in which global deliveries exceeded 6 million.

The Asia/Pacific region, up 21.6% from year-ago, accounted for 40.4% of world sales, with nearly 2.7 million units. In addition to China’s year-over-year hike, healthy growth in Japan (17%) and India (32.6%) were offset slightly by a 14% shortfall in South Korea.

North America sales of 1.2 million vehicles last month were down 8.8% from May, in line with seasonal sales patterns in the region, accounting for 18.6% of the global market.

Through June, auto makers sold 1.9 million vehicles in Europe for a 29.6% share. While Germany and Italy suffered declines of 30% and 17.4%, respectively, an 11.2% upswing in U.K. sales and a 46.4% jump in Russia held sway.

Brazil’s 5.8% dip was offset by a 41.8% year-over-year rise in Argentina, leaving South America’s vehicle sales dead-even with year ago, at 418,000 units – good for a 6.4% global share.

First-half world vehicle sales totaled 37.3 million, compared with like-2009’s 30.9 million.

jsousanis@wardsauto.com