European sales figures show market continuing to grow as UK struggles

14 September 2017

14 September 2017

The European passenger car market continued its growth in August 2017, with an increase of 5.6% in new vehicle registrations across the continent, according to the latest figures released by the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA). 

In total, 865,047 units were registered in the month, the best August performance since 2007 for the European automotive market. Amongst the five big markets for vehicles, Italy posted the strongest results with an increase in sales of 15.8%, while Spain was next with a 13% rise in registrations. France saw a 9.4% rise on the same period in 2016, while Germany posted a modest increase of 3.5%. However, the United Kingdom struggled, with demand for new vehicles declining by 6.4%. 

While Germany only posted a small rise, it did sell the highest volume of vehicles, with 253,679 units sold in total, with France selling 107,449 and Italy 83,363. Despite recording a decline in sales, the UK was fourth in total registrations with 76,433 units, followed by Spain with 72,410. 

Only four other countries recorded a reduction in August sales compared to 2016, with Belgium (8.1%), Cyprus (10%), Czech Republic (0.3%) and Romania (3.3%) joining the UK in negative figures. However, these four smaller markets were not able to dent the overall total for the continent. 

For the year-to-date figures, demand for passenger cars maintained its momentum of growth, with over 10 million new registrations and growth of 4.5% between January and August compared to the same period in 2016.  

Italy again topped the market increase for this period with growth of 9.1%, followed by Spain with 6.9% more vehicles registered so far this year. France was next with 4.2%, followed by Germany with 2.9%. However, the UK again registered a decline, with a 2.4% reduction in the number of sales compared to the first eight months of 2016.  

The UK sales figures have been hampered by an increase in the country’s vehicle excise duty (VED) rates, brought in during April 2017, as well as some uncertainty over Brexit and issues surrounding financial plans offered by vehicle dealerships. The country has seen five months of successive drops in registrations since April, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). However, September saw manufacturers begin their ′scrappage’ incentive plans in an effort to boost sales, which could see a return to positive monthly results.  

Of the vehicle manufacturers, Volkswagen (VW) Group again came out on top with 218,335 vehicles sold across its brands. However, PSA Group has overtaken Renault to become the continent’s second biggest car maker. The August figures are the first released since the acquisition of Opel and Vauxhall by the French firm was completed, and the former General Motors brand was the best-selling manufacturer in the group, with 53,115 sales, giving PSA a total of 133,541 units registered, up 79% on August 2016. With its last European brand now gone, GM posted a 99.9% reduction in sales with just 53 units sold in August.  

ACEA also released its July 2017 figures following the summer break, which showed a rise in registrations of 2.7%, with 1,155,361 units sold. These numbers are similar to the number of vehicles registered in both 2015 and 2016, showing the market was in a stable condition during this period.