How important is vehicle registration data?

27 February 2024

In this latest Autovista24 ‘What is?’ Video, special content editor Phil Curry provides an insight into what registration data is, and how it can help reveal market trends.

Vehicle registration data provides accurate information on how new-car markets are performing. But how important are the figures and what can they tell us?

Accurate market data

Automotive authorities provide registration data which details the number of vehicles that join a country’s roads each month. This data may initially look like a simple list of numbers. However, for analysts, the figures can tell an important story of market performance.

The numbers correspond to vehicles that have been delivered to customers, or where registration documents have been submitted in advance. Experts do not count the sales of vehicles, meaning that there can be quite a gap between the order being placed and the registration counting.

This helps to keep numbers accurate. Should orders be cancelled, especially in the months after they are placed, authorities would need to remove those from the totals, leading to confusing data. By tracking the vehicles as they arrive on the road, analysts can count a physical unit that will not disappear.

Tallying vehicles in this manner also helps environmental tracking, by totalling the number of petrol and diesel models in comparison to low and zero-emission vehicles. This also allows analysts to see trends in powertrain market developments.

For example, the diesel market was once the most dominant in the EU, with a 49.5% share in 2016. However, the Dieselgate scandal saw the technology’s market share plummet. At the end of 2023, it stood at just 13.6%, opening the door for battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) and hybrids to gain popularity.

External factor effects

As registration data counts when the vehicle is delivered, figures can be severely impacted by external factors. While economic conditions may affect orders, as financial decisions can be restricted, deliveries can be delayed by production problems.

In recent years, the market has suffered from the impact of COVID-19 and the supply-chain crisis. This delayed the delivery of key components to factories. While orders continued, carmakers could not build the models to fulfil them. This led to a bottleneck, as pressure on production increased to ensure the backlog of deliveries could be cleared.

The crisis was caused by increased demand for semiconductors coming from non-automotive sectors as a result of the pandemic. The war in Ukraine also delayed the production of key vehicle parts, such as wiring looms.

Other issues, such as the blockage of the Suez Canal, also caused disruption. It is reported that at one point, waiting times for BEVs increased to between 12-18 months.

Once component shortages eased and supplies resumed, orders could be fulfilled. The increased deliveries led to improved registration results in the latter part of 2022 onwards. However, as production rushed to meet demand, these enlarged deliveries continued for several months, creating a sustained period of growth.

Incentive impact

As BEV uptake continues, markets are starting to change their incentive packages for the technology. Some are simply amending the list of cars available for subsidies, while others are reducing the total budget available. Others, such as the UK and Germany, have withdrawn incentives completely.

With deadlines set, some customers will order their vehicles earlier than planned to take advantage of subsidies. This creates an artificially inflated market in the period before incentives end.

Pull-forward affect

In Germany, with business incentives for BEVs ending at the start of September 2023, registrations in August gave the powertrain a leading market share. Accounting for 37.7% of deliveries, the technology comfortably outperformed the usual market leader, petrol, with its 31.7% market share.

However, in September, BEV registrations were 28.6% down year-on-year with a 14.1% share. The technology continued to struggle for the rest of the year. This also affected overall registrations, with the market clearly slowing between September and December.

These trends are easier to spot with registration data covering the delivery of vehicles. It also allows analysts to forecast how markets will perform in the months and years ahead. This provides the automotive industry with a roadmap, allowing them to prepare for future growth or decline.

Autovista24 analyses registration numbers from France, Spain, Italy, Germany, the UK, and the EU each month. In addition, (part of Autovista Group) provides expert commentary on electric vehicle (EV) deliveries in Europe, China, and other major markets.

Want class-leading residual-value insight?

Discover more