Bertel Schmitt:

Lastly, here is an item that cannot be repeated often enough: Don’t trust what you read. These numbers are registrations, and in an ideal world, they should reflect actual cars sales much better than the “deliveries to wholesale” that are reported in other markets. The world is not ideal, and the numbers you read are heavily skewed by manufacturers and dealers registering their own cars, thereby creating dummy “sales.” The cars are then sold, later, as “nearly new” at high discounts, or are shipped to other countries. Car dealers and manufacturers are “their own best customers,” as Germany’s favorite car-commentator Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer said. In Germany alone, a whopping 34.2 percent of all registrations reported in January were phantom sales, writes Germany’s kfz-Betrieb. Dealers registered 48,216 of their own cars, manufacturers registered 24,075. Net-net, actual January new car sales in Germany were down slightly. Retail sales crashed 9.1 in January. In all of 2014, retail sales were down 1.9 percent compared to an already gruesome 2013. And that, this also bears repeating, was in Europe’s largest and richest market. And there you have it, Europe, up for the seventeenth month in a row. A full table is here.