Sales falls for Saab and Volvo

Sweden’s carmakers are facing leaner times, with Volvo and Saab both suffering from sales falls in January as signals of an economic downturn mounted.

Volvo says it sold 33,425 cars worldwide in January, which is 4.9 percent fewer than in January 2007. Saab sold 7,991 cars during the same period, 11.8 percent fewer than in January last year.

Maria Bohlin, spokeswoman for Ford-owned Volvo Cars, said the falls should be seen in light of the fact that 2007 was a very good year. The company had its best-ever year last year, selling 458,323 cars worldwide.

In Europe, Volvo sold 19,810 cars in January, a fall of 10.7 percent.

“The markets are generally falling in Europe at the moment. Our competitors are also seeing falls. In 2007 we were the fastest-growing premium brand in Europe,” Bohlin said.

Sales for Volvo fell in Sweden and Germany – its two largest markets in Europe. The company sold 3,793 cars in Sweden (down 17.4 percent) in January and 1,950 in Germany (down 12.8 percent.

“Sure, it hurts, but we still have about 25 percent of the market in Sweden. Germany has been a weak market for us in the past few months,” said Bohlin.

Russia is now Volvo’s fifth biggest market. The company sold 21,000 cars there last year and sales in January rose 17.6 percent.

Sales in the US rose by 3.1 percent in January to 8,040 cars, despite the weak dollar and the sub-prime crisis.

“Sales are starting to take off thanks in part to the XC 70, which was launched in the autumn,” Bohlin said.

The US market was less promising for GM-owned Saab, which sold 1,772 cars in January, representing a fall of 24.3 percent.

Saab also experienced falls in the UK, France and Spain – the large diesel markets. Sales in the UK were down by 36.9 percent to 932 cars.

Saab spokesman Christer Nilsson said the company was hoping that its new turbo diesel, to be launched later this year, would give it a boost. The company’s sales in Sweden were in positive territory. Some 1,834 Saabs were sold in January on the company’s home market, an increase of 5.5 percent.