March marks increasingly steep decline for EU light-commercial vehicle market

27 April 2022

commercial vehicles

The EU’s light-commercial vehicle market continued its descent in March, dropping 28.7% year on year with only 122,818 registrations. The latest figures from the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) confirm the decline is getting steeper.

In February a year-on-year market decline of 18.2% was posted and before that a 14.2% decent in January. With the addition of March’s numbers, there have been 329,606 light-commercial vehicle registrations (up to 3.5 tonnes) in the first quarter of 2022, marking a drop of 21.3% compared to the same period in 2021.

More broadly, the EU’s entire commercial-vehicle market saw a decline of 18.1% in the first quarter, with 411,097 units recorded. This drop will have been exacerbated by the 24.9% fall recorded last month, following the registration of 153,553 units. ‘In March 2022, EU commercial-vehicle registrations continued their downward trend, retreating for the ninth consecutive month,’ ACEA confirmed.

Light-commercial vehicle performance

The EU’s four largest markets all saw double-digit light-commercial vehicle losses last month. Spain took the biggest tumble with 9,644 registrations, down 46.5% year on year. France, Germany, and Italy each posted 28.6%, 22.2%, and 10.7% market declines respectively.

These localised trends echo across the first quarter of this year. With 43,367 registrations, Italy only saw a 5.3% downturn in the first three months of 2022. Meanwhile, Germany saw a 13.6% decline and France a drop of 24.2% in the reporting period. But it was Spain once again which took the hardest fall of the big four markets. With 26,052 registrations, its light-commercial vehicle market dropped by 35.7%.

Looking at light-commercial vehicle market performances across the European region, Austria recorded 5,568 new units in the first quarter, a tumble of 52.7% against the same period in 2021. At the other end of the spectrum, both Iceland and Latvia saw two of the strongest results within the first three months of the year, posting 17% and 16.9% increases respectively.

In terms of monthly performance, Sweden saw the largest reported drop in light-commercial vehicle registrations at 60.3% with 3,443 units. March was also a disappointing month for the UK as new vehicle plates often result in a well-received bump to registration figures. Instead, the number of new units fell by 27.6% compared to March 2021, marking the third straight month of decline.

Medium and heavy vehicle markets

In March, EU registrations of new medium and heavy buses (over 3.5 tonnes) increased by 21.6%, reaching 2,402 units. This was mainly due to triple-digit gains in several markets such as Cyprus (2,600%), Bulgaria (600%), and Estonia (290%). 

The picture was not quite as rosy for other medium and heavy-commercial vehicles over 3.5 tonnes, which fell by 6.6% last month. Examining the EU’s four largest markets, Italy posted a 0.9% growth, Germany recorded a decline of 11.6%, followed by Spain which was down 4.8%, and France which fell 1.9%.

New heavy-commercial vehicles over 16 tonnes slid by 4.6% across the EU with 24,088 units. Here there were slightly more mixed results. Germany and Spain recorded declines of 9.2% and 5.8% respectively. But more positively, Italy and France saw growth, up 1.9% and 1.6% respectively.