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Classics car manufacturers are shaking off some corona consequences

21:50  29 october  2020
21:50  29 october  2020 Source:   welt.de

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industry leader Volkswagen and large parts of the car industry have put away the worst consequences of the corona slump in spring. However, it is far from clear whether the catching-up process will continue after the significantly better third quarter.

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Should the new infections continue to rise and the stricter contact restrictions in Germany as well as restrictions in other countries stifle demand, the important branch of the economy would probably quickly fall back into sales lows. Uncertainty remains high, companies are cautious with forecasts. China in particular is driving the recovery.

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The VW group, the world's largest manufacturer, reported a noticeable improvement on Thursday for July to September. The net profit attributable to the shareholders leveled off at 2.6 billion euros, while there was a loss of 1.6 billion euros in the second quarter. The situation also eased in terms of sales, deliveries and ongoing business. Looking at the previous year's figures, however, the pandemic is still noticeable.

Especially in April, the tapes had stood still for weeks as a result of the first corona shutdown. Car dealerships were also closed in many places, and supply chains were cut. VW has now been able to work off the backlog in the warehouses and, thanks to the purchase bonuses for hybrid and e-cars, sell more vehicles again.

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Sales in the third quarter of the year at 59 billion euros were 3.4 percent below the previous year's level - but that is an improvement on the previous quarter, when the books had fallen by 37 percent compared to 2019. Deliveries across the group were recently 1.1 percent in the red, also stabilizing after slipping by almost a third in the second quarter.

You can now see a «noticeable recovery», it said. However, the overall development in 2020 remains critical. "The business of the Volkswagen Group remains severely affected by the Covid 19 pandemic after nine months," said CFO Frank Witter. After all, there is a “clear trend towards recovery”. In September, the number of new car registrations in several European countries had increased somewhat, and it was not just the subsidized models with alternative drives that saw more copies on the road.


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NordLB's car market expert Frank Schwope was optimistic: "Volkswagen is convincing after the catastrophic second with a strong third quarter and was able to clearly exceed market expectations." But he warned against an early all-clear: “Even if the key figures improved massively, the auto industry is concerned about a second corona lockdown. In our opinion, the corona spook should cause uncertainty at least until next summer. "

There are major differences between the individual group brands. The VW passenger cars made an operating profit in the third quarter, after the billion-dollar loss in the second quarter, the heart of the Wolfsburg-based car group achieved a result of 522 million euros. Calculated over the course of the year, the operating profit is still in the red at just under a billion euros.

Audi generated an operating income of 864 million euros between July and September, the result since the beginning of the year is clearly weaker at 221 million euros. At Porsche it is the other way around with 741 million and 1.9 billion euros. The business was driven by China, which contributed more than 1.2 billion euros to the profit of the VW group in the third quarter.

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Witter emphasized that society as a whole is asked to reduce the risk of another total standstill: The resolutions to tighten contact reduction are a "very clear signal that it is up to us all to get the situation under control". There are also new infections in the VW workforce, the group is using a corona hygiene concept. VW expects deliveries and sales for 2020 to be “well below” the previous year. The operating result is expected to be “seriously declining, but overall positive”.

car companies try to secure themselves through short-time work and additional financing. But the staff is feeling the consequences of the crisis. The VW core brand has officially stopped hiring, while the truck subsidiary MAN is on a controversial austerity program with thousands of job cuts. Overall, the number of employees in Europe's largest industrial group fell slightly by one percent to 664,200 at the end of the third quarter.

Investments in current business have recently fallen by almost ten percent. In mid-November the board wants to announce the plans for the next five years. For the “major future topics of electrification and digitization”, spending would be “kept at a high level”.

Other providers also showed signs of recovery over the summer. Between July and September, Daimler even made more profits than a year ago, also because business in China was running at full steam again. At BMW, according to initial findings, the cash position has brightened with significant inflows of funds - in the first half of the year it still looked desolate there.

At the supplier Continental, the gloomy situation in day-to-day business disappeared. The fact that Conti almost returned to its old values ​​in terms of sales and operating profit was not reflected in the bottom line: the Hanoverians again posted high depreciation and continued to have to invest a lot of money in the expensive downsizing.

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