European new vehicle market posts first March decline in four years

18 April 2018

18 April 2018

The European new car market saw its first decline of the year in March, as figures for the first quarter remained slightly positive.

The market dropped by 5.3% compared to the same month in 2017, with a total of 1,792,599 vehicles leaving dealerships across the continent. This marked the first March drop since 2014, although last year’s results were a record high for the month, constituting a high basis for comparison. The figure is up on 2016’s registrations by 5.4%

Three of Europe’s five big markets contributed to the decline in the month as momentum in the industry starts to slow. Italy saw a drop of 5.8% in sales, while Germany fell by 3.4%. However, the UK posted the biggest losses, with a market contraction of 15.7%. Growth was posted in France, up 2.2%, and in Spain which saw a rise of 2.1%

The UK’s loss had the biggest effect on the European market. Taking the country’s sales figures out of the equation in both 2017 and 2018, registrations would still have decreased in the month, but only by 0.8%. The country is struggling at present, with March 2018 representing its 12th consecutive month of decline.

During the first three months of the year, the European market saw growth remain flat, with just a 0.7% rise over Q1 2017, despite the decline in March. Passenger car registrations saw the biggest growth in Spain, which was up by 10.5% year-to-date, while Germany registered an increase of 4% and France saw 2.9% growth.

Italy’s sales numbers declined year-to-date, with its market down 1.5%, however it was the UK that once again posted the biggest decrease, with registrations in the country dropping by 12.4% overall. Overall, 4,171,628 units were sold across the continent, with new member states increasing their registrations by 11.9% so far this year.

ACEA statistics for months of March
Graph courtesy of ACEA


Volkswagen Group retained its position as the market leader in Europe, although the company saw sales only increase by 0.3% in March. Year-to-date, the manufacturer has increased sales by 5.4% across all its brands. PSA Group remains the second biggest company in the market, thanks to its takeover of Opel and Vauxhall in August 2017, with Renault selling the third highest number of units.

Ford saw a drop of 14.9% in March, and so far this year is down by 15.7% in the market. This is partially due to the decline in the UK, where the brand is a market leader. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) is also struggling, with a March decrease of 8% and yearly sales down 4.3% to this point. Nissan posted the biggest monthly loss, with sales dropping by 17.8%, and 11% over the first three months of 2018.