European car sales have been on a wild ride in the second half of 2018, due to the introduction in September of a new fuel efficiency and emissions testing standard called WLTP (Worldwide harmonized Light vehicle Test Procedure), to which many manufacturers have found themselves unprepared. After September 1st , only vehicle types that had been tested under the new standard were allowed to be sold as new vehicles in Europe. That meant that every version of every model sold in the continent needed to be retested, but despite working round the clock, the testing agencies just didn’t have enough capacity to get this done in time. With some vehicle/engine combinations “illegal” after September 1st, automakers rushed to register these vehicles in August, leading to a 26,4% sales gain in what’s usually the slowest month of the year by far. However, as these unsold vehicles still needed to end up in consumers’ hands, sales in September suffered a backdrop of 23,1% as for the first time in modern history fewer cars were sold in September than in August. In the following months, sales continued to suffer from the continued backlog of pre-registered but unsold vehicles as well as reduced availability of certain model/engine combinations. Some manufacturers have been hit harder than others, with VW Group and Renault-Nissan among the hardest hit by the new testing procedures.
Sales of passenger cars in Europe increased by 7,5% in July 2018, the second largest increase of the year so far, also helped by an extra selling day compared with July 2017. A total of nearly 1,28 million vehicles were sold during this month. The major EU markets showed very diverse results, with Spain (+19,1%) and France (+18,5%) showing the biggest growth of the top 5 markets. Germany also showed healthy growth at +12% while car sales in Italy were up 4,4% and the UK was up 1,2%. Lithuania is the fastest growing market with an increase of 56,4%, followed by Croatia (+43,7%) Romania (+34,2%), Portugal (+26,1%), and Poland (+25,7%).
In the first half of 2018, European passenger car sales are up 3% to 8,6 million, with new EU member states contributing the most at +11,4%. Among major markets, Spain (+10,1%) is the biggest gainer, followed by France (+4,7%) and Germany (+2,9%) while sales in Italy (-1,4%) and the UK (‐6,3%) are falling. Crossover sales are up 22,9% in the first half, while car models lost 3,1% and MPVs lost 17,5%.
In June 2018, sales of passenger cars in Europe increased by 5,5% after an almost flat May. A total of just over 1,6 million vehicles were sold in this period. The major EU markets showed very diverse results, with positive scores for France (+9,2%), Spain (+8%) and Germany (+4,2%), but losses for United Kingdom (-3,5%) and Italy (-7,3%). Sweden is the fastest growing market with an increase of 72,9% as consumers have pulled forward their car purchases in anticipation of a tax change which has gone in effect July 1st. This change benefits green vehicles but makes gas guzzlers more expensive, with an overall increase expected. This makes the 66.244 vehicles sold the biggest month in history for the Swedish car market and makes Sweden the #6 market in Europe this month. Other fast growing markets in June were Romania (+52,4%), Hungary (+30,6%), Croatia (+24,3%) and Greece (+24%). In the negative were most notably the tiny markets of Cyprus (-25,4%) and Iceland (-17,4%), as well as Ireland (-10,6%).
In May 2018, sales of passenger cars in Europe were virtually flat at +0,8% after an almost 10% gain in April. A total of just over 1,4 million vehicles were sold in this period, bringing the year-to-date total to just over 7 million in five months, an increase of 2,4%. The major EU markets showed very diverse results, with Spain (+7,2%) and the United Kingdom (+3,4%) in the black, while Germany (‐5,8%) and Italy (‐2,8%) saw their demand for cars decline in May. Sales in France (+0,1%) were flat. Fastest growing markets were Romania (+43,3%), Bulgaria (+34,6%) and Lithania (+32,6%), the only three markets posting growth of more than 17,5%. In the negative was most notably Iceland (-25,7%), but also Norway (-8%), Czech Republic (-4,8%), Luxembourg (-3,1%) and Switzerland (-2,1%).
European sales of passenger cars rebounded strongly in April 2018 after the first loss of the year in March. 1,34 million cars were sold in Europe this month, an increase of 9,7% on April 2017, when sales declined 7,2% on a 19,8% loss in the UK market due to an increase in the Vehicle Excise Duty that month. Accordingly, the UK is up by 10,4% this April, its first year-over-year improvement since March 2017 when sales were pulled forward in anticipation of the tax hike. Whereas the UK is traditionally the #1 European market in March, as it was this year as well, in April it is down to #4 in terms of volume, behind Germany (+8%), France (+9%) and Italy (+6,5%). Spain even outgrew the UK in April with a gain of 12,3%.
In the first quarter of 2018, European passenger car sales are up just 0,8% to 4,26 million, with Spain (+10,5%) as the biggest contributor to the growth, with Germany (+4%) and France (+2,9%) also in the black, while car deliveries declined in Italy (-1,5%) and most notably the UK (-12,4%). The new EU member states showed strong growth of 11.9% so far this year. Crossover sales are up 18,7% in Q1, while car models lost 4,3% and MPVs lost 20,7% as automakers are replacing their MPVs with crossovers to follow a shift in demand.
In March, European sales of passenger cars declined for the first time in 2018 and for the fourth time in 12 months. A loss of -4,7% means 1,83 million cars were sold in Europe this month, traditionally by far the biggest month of the year (see graph), due to the influence of the UK market, where the twice yearly license plate change (now to the “18” registrations) pushes car sales to a peak. As a result, the UK is the biggest market in Europe in March, taking 25,8% of the total market compared to just over 16% over the whole year. The 15,7% decline in UK car sales this month represents 87% of the total European loss as the rest of the European markets combined were down by just 0,9% in March. Among the major markets, new car sales also declined in Italy (-5,8%) and Germany (-3,4%), but France (+2,2%) and Spain (+2,1%) posted growth.
In February, European sales of passenger cars increased 4,4% to 1,15 million, which marks the fifth consecutive year of February sales growth, with sales up almost 40% on the nearly 829.000 sales of February 2013. Crossover and SUVs are the only segment to grow with an increase of 22,7% to a share of just over a third of the market while car models (hatchbacks, sedans, staton wagons, coupes and convertibles) lost 1,5% to 57,7% of the market and MPVs continued their sharp decline at -13,3% to 100.000 sales, 8,7% of the market.
European sales of passenger cars in January increased 6,5% in January 2018 to 1,27 million, which marks the fourth consecutive year of January sales growth, with sales up 40% on the 908.000 sales in January 2013. As sales of car models (hatchbacks, sedans, staton wagons, coupes and convertibles) were stable at +2%, MPVs continued thier sharp decline as crossovers and SUVs are taking over the European streets. MPVs declined 19% to just 7,7% of the market (a new low) while crossovers increased 24% to take 34% of the market, a new high as their share was below 30% for the 2017 full year.