2014 has proved a very positive year for new passenger car sales within Croatia. Indeed, it has marked the first year since the financial crisis when a long period of pent-up demand for new vehicles within Croatia finally resulted in a strong sales performance by the local market. As such, this strong demand created in the automotive sector over the course of 2010 to 2013 - when sales remained at less than half their 2008 levels - outweighed our previous view that Croatia's passenger car market still had room to fall alongside falling private consumption and a sluggish macroeconomic backdrop.
Over the first 10 months of the year, passenger car (PC) sales were up by 24.4% year-on-year (y-o-y), at 30,064 units, according to figures from the European Auto Manufacturers Association (ACEA).
Commercial vehicle (CV) sales have also been powering ahead. 9M14 figures from ACEA show a total of 4,181 light commercial vehicles (LCVs) sold in country, up 13% y-o-y with a 712 medium and heavy commercial vehicles sold (up 64.8%), plus a further 89 buses (-9.2%), for a total of 4,982 units sold year-to-date, up 17.7% y-o-y.
Adding the 4,982 CV units to the 27,623 PCs sold over 9M14 makes for a total new vehicle market of 32,605 units. On current sales trends, this leaves the Croatian new vehicle sales market well placed to record its strongest annual performance since 2009.
However, despite this strong performance over 2014, BMI is yet to be convinced that it marks the start of a lasting turnaround in the fortunes of the Croatian autos sector. Looking forward, therefore, we retain a cautious stance towards the local sales market, for a number of reasons which we outline below.
To start with, BMI maintains that the 24% growth in PC sales for 2014 is not symptomatic of the Croatian automotive market's shift into a recovery phase. Rather, we believe that the current uptick is due to an extremely low base effect and pent up demand after years of disappointing sales. BMI's European...