Did the EU new-car market see its recovery slow in November?

20 December 2023


The EU automotive market remains in recovery mode, with November’s registrations providing a 16th consecutive month of year-on-year growth.

Figures released by the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) show a modest growth of 6.7% last month. However, this is the lowest increase since August 2022, when deliveries started improving after months of production bottlenecks caused by the supply-chain crisis.

In total, 885,581 passenger cars were registered in November, with two of the bloc’s largest markets, Italy, and France, posting strong double-digit gains, of 16.2% and 14% respectively. However, Germany struggled, with its market dropping 5.7% year on year.

Between January and November, the market was up by 15.7% thanks to registration improvements every month. A total of 9,681,752 cars have taken to roads across the EU.

Is a slowdown starting?

The smaller rise seems to indicate the new-car market is slowing following months of growth after the supply-chain crisis. Yet the situation is not easy to unpick. November is often a slower month. As the year draws to a close, buyers may consider delaying large spending decisions until the new year.

Previous figures from the month have been mixed. The last registration increase was recorded in 2019 when the new-car market grew by 5.9% after removing UK numbers, which were still reported as part of the EU at the time. In 2017 the market increased by 9.1% when adjusted, while in 2016 a 6.4% increase was recorded. In 2018, and between 2020 and 2021, November saw declines in registrations.

In the same month last year, the market rose by 16.3%, but deliveries were still reaching customers who had experienced delays, skewing the figures. When taking this anomaly into account, this year’s growth is impressive. The 6.7% increase is in line with previous years, confirming a continuing trend rather than a slowing market.

Despite this, November’s figures are still down on 2019 by a sizeable margin. Registrations are 13.1% lower than in the pre-COVID-19 period. In the year-to-date, the EU is 19.1% behind.

Petrol share slips as BEVs impress

For the second time in 2023, the market share of petrol-powered vehicles in the EU dipped below a third. The 32.7% hold is only a slight drop on November 2022 (33.5%).

However, the powertrain regularly achieved a share of up to 38% at the beginning of the year. This illustrates the diverse range of powertrains now available and how the current market leader is being impacted.

The powertrain saw 289,392 units take to roads in November, up 4.2% year on year. Across the year to date, petrol registrations increased by 11.1%, with a market share of 35.7%.

The closest challenger was hybrid vehicles, under which ACEA combines the registrations of mild hybrids (MHEVs) and full hybrids (HEVs). The powertrain category saw 242,979 new cars registered, an increase of 28.7%. This gave hybrids a market share of 27.4% in the month, up from 22.7% recorded at the same time last year.

This rise came at the detriment of plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), which struggled once again. The technology appears to be falling out of favour with buyers, who are instead turning to HEVs, MHEVs or battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) for their low- and zero-emission needs.

In November, PHEV registrations dropped 22.1% with just 72,002 units delivered. This led to an 8.1% market share, down from 11.1% at the same time last year. In the year-to-date figures, the PHEV market fell by 1.8%, holding a 7.7% share. Down 1.3 percentage points on the first 11 months of 2022. This made it the least popular powertrain, except for the ‘others’ category.

The BEV market recorded a 16.4% increase, despite a drop in registrations of 22.5% in Germany, the biggest region for the technology. The country is still struggling to adjust to incentive changes made at the start of September which saw businesses no longer qualify for financial aid towards BEV purchases.

The country also ended incentives for private purchases on 17 December. This was scheduled to take place at the end of the year, but budget cuts pushed the change forward. It is likely that the country’s BEV figures will remain unstable as its market adjusts to this new era of non-incentivised purchases. However, some manufacturers have stated they will provide subsidies themselves.

Yet the EU’s BEV market picked up speed in November. This was thanks to impressive performances in Spain, Italy and France, which saw registrations grow 82.4%, 55.4% and 51.8% respectively.

In France, which has a bigger BEV market than Italy, this meant more than 10,000 additional units were delivered to customers. Belgium was the most impressive market, with a 150.2% increase equating to 9,499 units. This was more than Spain and Italy and came close to the Netherlands, which recorded 9,576 units, a 37.6% rise.

This meant that BEVs recorded a 16.3% market share in November, up from 15% last year. Despite some markets struggling in recent months, the powertrain has also increased its year-to-date share, which now stands at 14.2%, up from 11.1% across the first 11 months of 2022.

The industry will now be waiting to see how new-car markets perform in December. Should further growth be observed, it will be the first time since 2015 that every month of the year has seen positive registration results. This will illustrate the growth of the automotive market following the COVID-19 pandemic and the supply-chain crisis.