November figures suggest EU new car market will grow in 2019

17 December 2019

17 December 2019

Autovista Group Senior Data Journalist, Neil King, forecasts growth in four of the five major European new-car markets in December, with the EU finishing 2019 strong.

With 4.9% growth in new-car registrations in November, the EU new-car market has improved to be only 0.3% lower in the first 11 months of 2019 than in the same period in 2018. It looks like the EU as a whole could close with growth up on 2018.

Germany is the only one of the five major European markets to record growth so far in 2019, up 3.9% year-on-year. France and Italy are below the level achieved in the first 11 months of 2018, albeit by less than 1%. Spain and the UK have suffered the greatest declines in the year-to-date, down by 5.7% and 2.7% respectively.

New-car registrations, year-on-year % change, January to November 2019

EU new car regs Nov 19 YTD

Source: Autovista Group based on ACEA data

However, the year-to-date decline has improved again and further growth in new-car registrations is to be expected in December, given the WLTP-induced contraction in demand (-8.4%) in December 2018. This should push France and possibly even Italy into positive territory in 2019. Furthermore, the new tax regime in effect in France from January 2020 will pull forward some demand into December and stronger growth is therefore expected in the month than in November. New-car registrations are expected to grow in Germany and even in Spain in December too.

In the UK, the Conservative party victory in the general election on 12 December increases the likelihood of Brexit happening on 31 January 2020. Although this subject continues to divide the nation, the majority government will now be able to pass the necessary legislation in the UK Parliament. This reduces the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, which may benefit the new car market slightly in December already. It is difficult to call whether demand will actually increase compared to December 2018 but there will still be fewer new cars registered in the UK in 2019 than in 2018.

Third consecutive month of growth

Registrations of new passenger cars in the EU grew by 4.9% year-on-year in November, with 1,175,959 units registered, according to figures released today by the European Carmakers’ Association, ACEA. Although this positive result is against a low base of comparison in November 2018, when demand contracted by 8.0% year-on-year following the EU-wide implementation of WLTP, it is still the third consecutive month of growth.

The majority of EU new-car markets posted increases in November and new-car registrations enjoyed growth in France (+0.7%), Germany (+9.7%), Italy (+2.2%) and even Spain (+2.3%) as demand corrected itself after losses in November 2018.

New-car registrations fell by 1.3% in the UK, despite a 3.0% contraction in November 2018, as economic and political uncertainty surrounding Brexit continued to impact confidence. However, the seasonally-adjusted annualised rate (SAAR) of the UK new car market improved again in November, to over 2.2 million registrations.

New-car registrations, year-on-year % change, November 2019 and November 2018

EU new car regs Nov 19

Source: Autovista Group based on ACEA data

Manufacturer performance

Among the dominant carmakers in Europe, Volkswagen Group (VW) again enjoyed the highest gain in November. This was to be expected as VW took the biggest hit following the introduction of WLTP in September 2018. Registrations of new VW cars grew by 13.4% year-on-year in November. Registrations of new Porsche models surged by 290%, following the introduction of the brand’s first fully electric sportscar, the Taycan, and Audi and SEAT increased registrations by 38.3% and 11.1% respectively. The core VW brand was up too, by 9.7%, but Skoda sales declined by 1.2%. For the first 11 months of the year, the VW Group was up 1.9% overall, boosted by the Skoda and SEAT brands enjoying growth of 2.9% and 10.5% respectively.

Renault Group also enjoyed a healthy gain compared to November last year. The French carmaker saw sales rise 4.3% across all its brands, although it remains 0.6% down year-to-date. Registrations of new PSA Group cars fell 7.2% year-on-year in November but the carmaker was one of the most prepared for WLTP and therefore saw less of a sales dip last year. In the year-to-date, PSA Group sales in the EU are down, albeit by only 1.0%, but it remains the second-biggest carmaker in the region.

BMW Group sales increased by 0.3% in November, helping the company’s sales stay positive in the year-to-date, up by 0.4%. Daimler enjoyed healthier growth of 7.2% in EU demand in November and has registered 4.1% more cars in the EU so far in 2019. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) suffered a 1.4% decline in November and is 8.6% down in the first 11 months of 2019 due to its exposure to the weakness of the Italian market. Nissan reported slightly negative sales growth in November, down 1.2%, and has registered 22.1% fewer cars in the EU in the first 11 months of 2019. This is the greatest loss of all carmakers and Honda is the only other manufacturer that has suffered a double-digit decline so far in 2019, with sales down 12.6%.