Europe begins car registration recovery after WLTP introduction

16 October 2019

Europe begins car registration recovery after WLTP introduction

16 October 2019

New car registrations in Europe rose significantly in September, as the market begins to adjust following the introduction of WLTP last year.

Across the continent, sales grew 14.5% year-on-year in the last month, according to the latest figures from the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA). Sales fell dramatically in September 2018 (down 23.5%) as new emissions tests meant some vehicles were not ready by the deadline and some manufacturers suspended deliveries.

Additionally, some manufacturers pushed sales in August 2018 and pre-registered vehicles that would not be compliant with WLTP. This is reflected in the August 2019 new car registration figures, which were 8.6% down compared to August 2018.

Last month, all EU member states posted increases, except for Bulgaria. Four of the five major EU markets even recorded double-digit gains: Germany (22.2%), Spain (18.3%), France (16.6%) and Italy (13.4%). By contrast, market recovery was very limited (1.3%) in the UK as Brexit-related uncertainties continued to affect consumer confidence.

Year in review

Over the first nine months of 2019, new car registrations were down 1.6% compared to the same period in 2018. Despite demand recovering across the European Union in September, Germany (2.5%) was the only major market to post positive results so far this year. Spain (down 7.4%) saw the strongest drop, followed by the United Kingdom (dropping 2.5%), Italy (down 1.6%) and France (down 1.3%).

September last year saw the start of a sustained period of decline in sales in Europe that lasted until May this year. While the market is currently down by 1.6% in the year-to-date, the next three months will give it a chance to catch up. For reference, October 2018 saw a decline in sales of 7.3% as the WLTP effect continued.

Manufacturer standings

Volkswagen Group (VW) was the biggest winner in September. The carmaker was also the one that took the biggest hit following the introduction of WLTP, admitting at the time that half of its models were not compliant by the 1 September deadline. VW saw sales rise by 47% across all brands last month, with its core VW brand performing best, up 59.2%. For the first nine months of the year, the group is down 1.4% overall, with Skoda and SEAT the main brands showing growth - up 2.9% and 9.3% respectively.

Renault Group also saw big growth compared to September last year. The French firm, which recently announced management changes, saw sales rise 28.1% across all its brands, although it remains 2.2% down year-to-date. Fellow French company PSA Group had a more modest growth of 3.9%; the carmaker was one of the most prepared for WLTP and therefore saw less of a sales dip last year. PSA Group is up on sales year-to-date, albeit by only 0.003%, and remains the second biggest European carmaker.

Ups and downs

Of the rest, BMW sales remained stable with a 0.1% decrease, meaning it is up 0.1% year-to-date, while Daimler is performing well, up 7% in September and 4.3% in the year so far. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) saw growth of 13.6% last month, although the Italian company is 10.2% down across the first nine months of 2019. Nissan’s struggles continued as the Japanese firm was one of the few to record a drop in September. The carmaker’s 5.6% decline in registrations was the biggest of all and leaves it 25.4% down year-to-date, as it looks to shore up the business.