>Teufel! The car in front is a Toyota

>Gloom everywhere in the car industry. Chrysler is going for a song to Fiat… and GM is going, well, bust  – in a carefully managed, politically sensitive sort of way. And it’s not much better in Europe. Sales of new cars across Europe fell by 9% in March 2009 compared with a year ago, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association.

But wait, what’s this? In Germany, Europe’s largest car market, sales are actually up – and by an astonishing 40% last month. The reason for this anomaly is not hard to fathom. It’s called scrappage, which means the state doles out cash (€2,500 in Germany) if you exchange your old banger for a new, or near-new, vehicle. Wunderbar! Let’s all have more of it. Even at this moment Alistair Darling is preparing a parallel scheme for the Budget, and Gordon Brown has as usual gone overboard by promising to save the consumer – if not the world – £5,000 on the cost of a new electric car. Never mind that these vehicles are, to date, technically inadequate for most daily usage.

Before getting over-excited let’s take a closer look at the German scheme, for all is not what it seems. Yes, car sales have soared. But have the German car marques – BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, Audi and VW – been the main beneficiaries? No they have not. Not many of their models, even in nearly new condition, are priced under €10,000. The cars in front are foreign-owned Toyota, Nissan and Honda. So much for propping up the German car-manufacturing sector.

It’s no wonder Sarko thinks German chancellor Angela Merkel “doesn’t get it”.


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