European vehicle registrations drop in September due to struggling UK and German markets

17 October 2017

17 October 2017

The latest car registration figures have been released by the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA), showing a 2% drop in the month of September across the continent.

In total, 1,427,105 passenger cars were sold, however the association is keen to highlight that the figures are up against the highest monthly total ever in September 2016. With this in mind, a 2% drop is a good result for the overall European market, resulting in a total of 28,665 fewer sales.

However, the results highlight a slowing of sales in some of the EU’s key markets, with Germany posting a 3.3% drop in sales, and the UK a 9.3% drop, continuing a run of poor monthly sales. These declines were partially offset by strong performances in Italy, with an 8.1% sales increase, and Spain, which saw a 4.6% rise in registrations.

Volkswagen once again remained the dominant force in the EU market, although it saw a small drop in sales year-on-year of 0.9%. PSA Group, whose sales now include those of Opel, grew their sales by 70.1% as a result, giving them a strong second place in the market, with Renault growing by 0.6% compared with September 2016, staying third. However, combined sales of PSA Group vehicles without the addition of Opel dropped by around 1.4%.

Meanwhile, over the first nine months of the year, demand for passenger cars has remained positive, with 11.7 million sales translating into an increase of 3.7% over the first nine months of last year. Italy is the strongest market so far with growth of 9%, with Spain registering an increase of 6.7%, France a 3.9% improvement and Germany posting a 2.2% rise. However, the UK has seen demand fall by 3.9%.

The UK market is the cause of the European figures running into a loss in September, even with record numbers from 2016 taken into account. Removing the country’s sales numbers from the EU results shows that during the last month, the market was actually up by 1.5%, while in year-to-date figures, it would be up by 5.5% overall.

Manufacturers were hit by the slow British market, with Opel and its UK brand Vauxhall seeing decline of 10%, and Ford, the UK’s bestselling brand, dropping by 12.9% across the continent. Vauxhall sales dropped 25% in the UK during September, with Ford dropping 19%.

The low sales of Vauxhalls is part of the reason that new owner PSA has decided to axe 400 jobs from Britain’s Ellesmere Port plant, despite suggesting that when it took over Opel from General Motors in August, that it would not let any workers go in the short-term.

Meanwhile, sales in Germany have slowed since the start of the year, as manufacturers fight for the future of the diesel engine. This includes a recall program for 5.3 million cars in order to clean up their emissions profiles, and a scrappage offer for older cars that cannot have their ECUs retuned. While, like the UK, these schemes began at the start of September, as vehicle sales are calculated by registrations it may not be until the October figures, with new vehicle orders averaging four weeks to complete, that incentives will have an impact.