Analysis

For the first time since China’s 2009 market explosion reversed a global downward trend, world vehicle sales are tracking near year-ago levels.

Auto makers sold 6.6 million vehicles in June, up just 0.9% over like-2010, marking the seventh consecutive month of year-over-year growth declines.

The most recent slide is tied directly to the March earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Repercussions of these disasters continue to impact inventory and sales in major markets, while also reflecting tapered growth in China, the world’s largest vehicle market, where June sales inched up just 1.8% from year-ago.

Japan sales plummeted 21.6%, but the performance marked an improvement over prior-month’s 27.8% decline and allowed the country to reclaim from India the No. 2 sales spot in Asia/Pacific. Deliveries in India rose 7.8% in the month.

Sales in the entire Asia/Pacific region slipped 3.8% to 2.56 million units, accounting for 38.8% of global deliveries, a slight increase over May’s 37.1% share.

Related document: World Vehicle Sales Summary

U.S. and Canada vehicle sales jumped 7.6% and 7.1% respectively, as low inventories of Japanese vehicles continued to put the brakes on North America’s brisk first-quarter growth rate.

With Mexico contributing 13.9% year-over-year growth, North America vehicle sales grew 7.8% to 1.3 million units, good for a 20% share of the world market.

In Europe, No.1 vehicle market Germany recorded a 4.8% sales uptick on 315,000 deliveries, while Russia edged out France by a few thousand units to take the No.2 spot on 257,000 units. Russia’s performance was up 2.8% over like-2010.

Europe sales dipped 1.7% in June to 1.87 million units, accounting for 28.4% of the world market.

In Brazil, sales were up 15.8% on 300,000 deliveries, making it the fifth-largest vehicle market worldwide. Across South America, overall sales continued to be outpace year-ago by 17.1%, giving the region a 7.3% global market share.

World vehicle sales through June rose to 39.2 million units, up 5.1% from year-ago.

Despite seven straight months of lessening growth, there’s reason to expect the world sales trend will avoid negative numbers and rebound in coming months. Production by Japan-based auto makers returns to near-normal levels around the globe and the Chinese market is showing signs of rejuvenation.

jsousanis@wardsauto.com