EU new-car registrations tumble 7.5% in January 2020

18 February 2020

18 February 2020

Autovista Group Senior Data Journalist, Neil King, considers the fall in new-car registrations across the EU in January. Autovista Group’s EU figures for January include the UK, as it left the trading bloc on 31 January.

New-car registrations in the EU declined by 7.5% year-on-year in January 2020, according to figures released by the European Carmakers’ Association (ACEA) today. This contraction is especially noteworthy as it is compared against a low base of January 2019, when demand fell 4.6% compared to January 2018. A combination of tax changes introduced in some EU member states and fines for exceeding the new CO2 emissions targets, to be imposed in 2021 based on 2020 new-car registrations, pulled demand forward into December 2019, largely explaining the weak January result. However, ACEA notes that ‘other contributing factors included weakening global economic conditions and uncertainty caused by the UK's departure from the European Union.’

New-car registrations, year-on-year % change, January 2020 and January 2019

EU new car regs Jan 20

Source: Autovista Group based on ACEA data

Brexit impact

ACEA already excludes the UK from the EU registration figures for January 2020 and has applied this change retrospectively to ensure like-for-like comparison. ‘Although the UK was still part of the EU in January 2020, ACEA has decided to base the entire 2020 cycle of press releases – including the month of January – on the new EU27 aggregate (excluding the United Kingdom). This will improve clarity in reporting data and will result in one full-year total for 2020 based on a single perimeter, i.e. the EU27,’ ACEA said in a statement issued on 12 February,

However, as the UK only left the EU on 31 January, the UK figures are still included in the EU by Autovista Group for the purpose of this analysis. Coincidentally, the decline in new-car registrations in the UK, down 7.3%, was in line with the performance across the EU and so the decline was also 7.5% even if the UK is excluded.

Starting with the reporting of the February and year-to-date figures in March, however, Autovista Group will also excluded the UK from our monthly analysis of EU new-car registrations.

All major markets and most carmakers in decline

Demand for new passenger cars fell in all the major European markets in January, despite the contraction in January 2019. The biggest fall was in France (down 13.4%), followed by Spain (down 7.6%), Germany (down 7.3%), UK (down 7.3%) and Italy (down 5.9%). Some smaller markets did, however, mange to post positive results in January, such as Belgium, Greece and Hungary. The greatest surge in demand was in Lithuania, where new-car registrations increased 35% year-on-year.

Among the dominant carmakers in Europe, Ford suffered the greatest loss in demand in January, registering 22% fewer cars in the month. Renault and the PSA Group were similarly affected by the severe downturn in demand in France, registering 16% and 13% fewer cars respectively.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) registered 7% fewer cars in January and Daimler suffered a similar fate, with registrations down 10%. However, BMW Group sales increased by 5% in January, aided by their stronger portfolio of electric and hybrid vehicles.

The stand-out success story was Toyota, which registered 12% more cars in January than in the same month last year. Given Toyota’s reliance on hybrid cars, a picture is already emerging of winners and losers in 2020 as manufacturers push low-emissions cars to meet their respective emissions targets.