Analysis

After five months of decelerating growth, worldwide vehicle sales registered a 7.2% rise in August, the strongest year-to-year performance since February’s 9.1% gain.

Growth had been mired below 4% since March and fell below 1% in July.

The healthy August result, reflecting total sales of 5.94 million units, came even as concern about a double-dip recession – particularly in Europe and North America – continued to grow. Yet both regions played a major role in buoying sales.

Auto makers sold more than 1.26 million vehicles across Europe, a 12.4% increase over year-ago and the region’s second-largest monthly increase in the past year.

In Germany, the region’s largest market, deliveries climbed 18.6% to 263,000 units. Russia claimed the No.2 spot, up 33.1% to 235,000. Collectively, European markets accounted for 21.3% of global vehicle sales.

Related document: World Vehicle Sales Summary

More than 1.3 million vehicles were sold in North America in August. The 8.1% jump reflected an 8.4% rise in the U.S., on unit sales of 1.1 million. Mexico saw a 12.4% rise, with deliveries topping 78,000. Along with Canada’s 143,000 units, up 3.9%, the region took a 22.2% share of world sales.

Deliveries in the Asia/Pacific region grew for the first time since February, with a 4.1% gain on sales of nearly 2.5 million vehicles – 42% of all deliveries worldwide.

However, with sales flat in India, the region’s third-largest market, and down 22.4% in Japan, still recovering from the March tsunami and earthquake, the upward gain was attributable almost entirely to China, where a mini-boom that began last month seems to be gathering steam.

The world’s largest market registered its biggest year-over-year sales increase since January, up 12.8% to 1.38 million vehicles. Deliveries through August were 4% above year-ago.

Sales in Brazil grew 4.7% in August, compared with year-ago’s stellar performance, to 328,000 units, placing just behind Japan in the No.4 spot. Vehicle deliveries across South America rose an average 7.4%, giving the region 8.6% of worldwide sales.

Through August, global vehicle sales tallied 51.3 million, marking a 4.9% improvement over year-ago.

jsousanis@wardsauto.com