New car registrations fall 8.6% across the EU in August

18 September 2019

New car registrations fall 8.6% across the EU in August

18 September 2019

New car registrations in the European Union fell 8.6% year-on-year in August, largely due to the high base of comparison in August 2018 ahead of the introduction of WLTP emissions testing on 1 September 2018.

The top five EU markets all recorded declines in the month, with the strongest drops in Spain (-30.8%) and France (-14.1%), according to the latest figures released by the European Carmakers' Association ACEA. New car registrations were 3.1% lower in Italy than in August 2018 but were comparatively resilient in the UK and in Germany, falling by only 1.6% and 0.8% respectively.

Surge in August 2018

Passenger car registrations surged 31.2% in August 2018 as the WLTP test applied to all new car registrations from 1 September 2018. ACEA commented at the time that ‘some auto manufacturers offered pre‐WLTP vehicles at extremely attractive prices. As a result, double‐digit percentage gains were registered in many EU countries, as well as in the five major markets.’

There was, however, one less working day in August 2019 than in August 2018 and this slightly compounded the weak results in the month. Similarly, there was one more working day in July 2019 than in July 2018 and this contributed to growth in new car registrations, albeit of just 1.4%, in July.

Of all the EU member states, Greece (+24.3%), Hungary (+20.8%) and Sweden (+19.5%) enjoyed healthy new car market growth in August, with growth also recorded in four markets in Eastern Europe – namely Bulgaria, Croatia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Year-to-date

During the first eight months of 2019, demand for passenger cars across the EU was down by 3.2% compared to the same period last year, with 10.5 million new cars registered in total.

In the big five, Spain is the worst-performing, with sales down 9.2%. Perhaps not unsurprisingly, the UK is next, with sales down 3.4% in the year-to-date. France and Italy have both registered 3.0% fewer new cars in January-August than in the same period in 2018, while Germany is the only EU5 market that has posted growth so far in 2019, albeit of just 0.9%.

Manufacturer performance

Only Daimler, Volvo and Ford registered more new cars in August 2019 than in August 2018, up 23.2%, 9.2% and 3.2% year-on-year respectively. This aligns with their comparative stability in August 2018 as they did not register significant volumes ahead of the introduction of WLTP.

Volkswagen Group remains the market leader in the EU, with a 24.8% share so far this year, but sales declined 7.7% in August and 4.5% in the year-to-date. The core VW brand has suffered the most of its high-volume marques, with declines of 13.7% in August and 7.6% in the year-to-date. All the German carmaker’s brands suffered in August, except Skoda. SEAT is the best performing group brand in the year-to-date, posting growth of 7.4% compared to the first eight months of 2018.

PSA Group saw a decline of 5.1% in August as registrations fell across all brands except DS. The carmaker has slipped into negative territory as a result, with new car registrations down 0.4% year-on-year in the first eight months of 2019.

Domestic rival Renault Group suffered far more in August, with 23.6% fewer cars registered in the month. Demand for cars of the core Renault brand fell 38.2%. Consequently, Renault Group registrations were 4.7% lower in the year-to-date and demand for new cars of the core Renault brand was 11.9% lower than in the first eight months of 2018.

Nissan was again the poorest performer in August, the embattled Japanese carmaker registering almost 50% fewer cars in August 2019 than in August 2018. In the year-to-date, registrations of new Nissan cars are down by 27.3%.