Western European Passenger Car Sales Weak

AutoInformed.com on Western European Passenger Car Sales 2019 Forecast

The global economy is fragile and disrupted by uncertainty. Click to Enlarge.

Western European car registrations rose by 13.9% YoY in September, but the selling rate faded to 13.1mn units/year, from16.9 mn units/year in August, the weakest selling rate of the year so far, according to consultancy LMC.

As AutoInformed readers know the introduction of WLTP in September 2018 distorted the market in August and September last year, with a high base effect in August and a low base effect for September as it became clear that diesels were dirty and not meeting emission standards.

“This has led to a perceived growth in sales across Europe for September while, in many cases, the selling rate has dropped since August and sales growth is weak or negative in the year to date,” says LMC.

AutoInformed.com on West European Passenger Car Sales September 2019 by Country

Click to enlarge.

August’s strong sales were largely the result of an increased use of self-registrations by dealers and OEMs, ahead of further changes to WLTP regulations which came into effect on 1st September 2019, and therefore there was some settlement in selling rates in September this year. (WLTP How Does It Work? Will it Work?)

In the epicenter of Dieselgate, Germany’s September selling rate was its weakest for the year so far, at 3.0 mn units/year. However, taken alongside August’s inflated 4.3 mn units/year, the selling rate has averaged almost 3.7 mn units/year over the last two months, still okay. (Death of the Diesel: Daimler Guilty of Selling Dirty Diesels in Germany – Pays $957,000,000 Fine Rather than Litigate)

In the UK, sales advanced just 1.3% YoY in September; a month which usually sees the second highest volumes of the year, due to the release of new registration plates.

“If August and September volumes are taken together, the UK’s performance was similar to last year’s, but this compares poorly to markets such as Germany and France, which saw robust YoY growth.,” said LMC. Political and economic uncertainty around the BREXIT catastrophe is clearly hurting the UK car market AutoInformed opines.

“We expected to see a more significant increase in September, similar to those seen in France, Germany, Italy and Spain, given the negative effect WLTP had on all European markets last year. Instead, consumer confidence is being undermined by political and economic uncertainty. We need to restore stability to the market which means avoiding a ‘no deal’ Brexit and, moreover, agreeing a future relationship with the EU that avoids tariffs and barriers that could increase prices and reduce buyer choice,” said Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive.

The French selling rate dropped from 2.6 mn units/year in August to 2.2 mn units/year in September, back down to rates on par with July, although sales jumped16.6% YoY.

Italy’s selling rate dropped from 2.2 mn units/year in August to 1.8mn units/year in September; the market expanded by 13.4% YoY.

“WLTP repercussions continue to distort the data,” says LMC. Executive summary: weak selling rates and strong YoY growth throughout Western Europe.

In Spain, the market saw an 18.3% YoY increase in sales; however, sales were still down on September 2017’s volumes, which are a better indictor than last September’s artificially low total. The selling rate fell slightly to 1.3 mn units/year in September, and for the YTD, Spanish registrations are down 7.4% YoY.


About Kenneth Zino

Ken Zino is an auto industry veteran with global experience in print, broadcast and electronic media. He has auto testing, marketing, public relations and communications expertise garnered while working in Asia, Europe and the U.S.
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