German carmakers prosper in U.S., call for E.U. free trade deal

German automobile manufacturers sold a record number of new cars in the U.S. 2012 and expect to beat that again in 2013, according to the German Association of the Automotive Industry.

At a Detroit Car Show press conference Matthias Wissmann, president of the association known by its acronym in German, the VDA, called for a free trade agreement between the European Union and the U.S., which he said if it also included an elimination of nontariff barriers such as overlapping safety regulations, could save consumers billions of dollars on both sides of the Atlantic.

Wissman also lauded the progress of diesel engines in the U.S.

German manufacturers raised their 2012 car sales by 22 percent to 920,400 vehicles. In a car market totaling just over 7.2 million that gave Germans a market share of 12.7 percent, he said.

“More than one new car in eight sold in the U.S. in 2012 bore a German badge,” Wissmann said.

Wissman contrasted the mood in the U.S. now, with the dark recession days of 2008 and 2009.

“The U.S. automotive market has revitalized itself with amazing speed and dynamism. Last year it shifted up several gears. We are especially pleased that in 2012, both in the car and the light truck segments the German manufacturers grew faster than the relevant U.S. markets,” Wissmann said.

“For our manufacturers the automotive year 2012 was the most successful year ever on the U.S. market. All the German brands that are active here recorded double digit rises in their light vehicle (cars and light trucks) sales. In view of the model offensive that our member companies are showing in Detroit, everything suggests we will expand in North America for the eighth year in succession,” he said.

Wissmann said German carmakers sold 125 percent more diesels in the U.S. in the first 10 months of 2012 at 77,300 compared with 2009. He said diesels would win an increasing market share in the U.S., but were unlikely to reach European levels where almost every other new car sold is a diesel.

Wissmann said he wanted the European Union and the U.S. to negotiate a free trade deal, but he was especially concerned about the level of what he called non-tariff barriers, where the duplication of safety regulations raised costs hugely.

“If a vehicle is accepted in Europe, it should be accepted automatically in the U.S. That would cut costs for the consumer by billions of dollars if you cold do that,” he said.

“Let’s do it with electric vehicles,” Wissmann said.

“I call on the leaders and heads of state in the E.U and the U.S. to push to get this done,” he said.

Neil Winton
Neil Winton writes the European Perspective column for Autos Insider. He was Reuter's Science and Technology Correspondent and European Auto Correspondent before setting up as a freelance columnist and web site publisher, writing about the European automotive industry and its products. Neil can be reached at neil.winton@btinternet.com.