Outlook for Luxury Car Makers Remain Attractive

Global vehicle sales increased by 5.2% to 80.9 million in 2012, but luxury car segment sales followed a higher trajectory. Most luxury car manufacturers reported high double digit sales volume growth in 2012. We believe, luxury car manufacturers will continue to do well in 2013 as well. Global portfolio managers would do well to add names such as BMW and Daimler to their portfolio. Below is a brief review of performance in 2012 and outlook for 2013 for various car markets.

US -The automotive industry in the US has witnessed a marked reversal of fortunes since the slump seen in 2008-2009. Car Sales increased by around 13.4% yoy to reach 14.4 million in 2012. Luxury car sales performed even better with Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz reporting 18.5%, 13.8% and 15.4% yoy growth respectively, in the US car unit sales for 2012. 2013 continues to bring cheer from car manufactures as strong demands are prompting them increase production lines and even cancel summer factory shutdowns. Auto sales are expected to reach 15.5 million for 2013.

Europe – Auto sales in Europe were very weak in 2012 with new car registrations declining to 12.5 million (7.8% yoy decline), according to the European automobile manufacturers’ association. According to the association, the registration numbers were lowest in 17 years. Poor economic environment characterized by low or negative GDP growth for many member nations and high unemployment are reducing the disposable income and are hurting the car sales. New registration data continues to be weak in 2013 and it is expected that 2013 will see another 5% yoy decline in car sales.

Luxury car sales in 2012, however, were less affected by the economic woes of Europe compared to the overall car market. For 2012, Audi and BMW reported 1.8% and 0.8% yoy increase in their European unit sales, respectively. We expect the demand for these cars to hold in 2013.

UK – Car sales in UK fared much better compared to the rest of Europe. In UK, new car registrations increased by 5.3% yoy in 2012 to reach 2.0 million. These sales remain upbeat in UK as well with almost all top car brands reporting sales growth.

China – Driven by growth in GDP and thus disposable income levels, China’s demand for cars continues to increase. In 2012, passenger vehicle sales increased by 7% yoy to reach 15.5 million. Luxury car sales have remained buoyant as the wealth levels increase. All luxury car maker reported strong sales growth. Another trend that needs to be noticed is strong growth in sales of SUVs. In 2012, SUV sales increased by 25.3% to reach almost 2 million units. We expect the new sales to grow around 10% and SUV sales is expected growth faster than broader market at around 25% for 2013.

WE find both bonds and equity from the luxury car makers attractive at this point as they provide a neat way of having an exposure to improving global outlook and faster growth rates of developing nations.

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