Orders received by the German machine tool industry in the first quarter of 2019 were down 21% on Q1 2018. Orders from within Germany fell by 10%, whereas those from abroad were down by 27%.
Wilfried Schäfer, executive director of the VDW (German Machine Tool Builders’ Association) (vdw.de/en/), said: “These dips are due not least to the extremely buoyant first half of 2018, and this base effect is expected to decrease significantly in the second half of 2019.
“Nevertheless, the cooling of the global economy is now finally impacting on the German machine tool industry.
"Domestic business, long a ‘counterweight’ to the decline in foreign orders, has lost a great deal of momentum. The only bright spot is the euro zone, which is now much more stable and saw only a 3% downturn.
“However, it can only stabilise the loss from the non-euro zone to a marginal extent.
“The causes of the downturn are easily identified: politically motivated disruptions to world trade, which affect the emerging markets; weak growth in China; structural weaknesses in the automotive industry (the largest client market); and the slump in the semiconductor industry.
“In 2018, the international automotive industry halved its capital spending compared with the previous year, and it is likely to plan an even lower figure for 2019.”
Machine tool order levels are below those of sales for the first time since mid-2014, although sales increased by 6% in the first three months of 2019.
Dr Schäfer said: “Many companies are currently relying on their order backlog from the previous boom, and what were excessive delivery times are shortening, making machine procurement more flexible again. Capacity utilisation in April this year was at 86.5%, which is below last year’s average.
“Nevertheless, the VDW expects production to grow by 1% in 2019.”
In 2018, the German machine tool industry provided machines and services worth 17.1 billion euros.