Poor performance for the EU new-car market despite hybrid growth

21 June 2024

The EU’s new-car market fell into decline last month, as the bloc’s biggest markets impacted figures and most powertrains struggled. Tom Hooker, Autovista24 journalist, investigates the performance.

A total of 911,697 new-cars were delivered in the EU during May, a drop of 3% year-on-year. This was caused by a decline across most powertrains, with hybrids the only technology to see an improvement.

Figures from the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) show that some of the bloc’s biggest markets suffered a slump in registrations last month.

Deliveries in Germany, France, and Italy struggled, while Spain was the only big four market that saw volumes grow. The latter was one of only six countries posting over five-digit registration figures to record growth.

Other notable struggles in May came from the Netherlands, which posted a double-digit delivery decline of 13.9% alongside Sweden (down 11.9%). Meanwhile, Romania trended in the opposite direction (up 14.7%) as well as Poland (up 13.2%), albeit on lower delivery volumes.

Across the first five months of 2024, EU new-car registrations are up 4.6%, at 4.59 million units. This is an increase of just over 200,000 units from the same period last year.

The bloc’s biggest markets of Germany, France, Italy and Spain all saw improved volumes in the year-to-date.

Elsewhere, Bulgaria (up 37%), Croatia (up 15.1%), Poland (up 15%) and Greece (up 12.1%) saw the biggest gains of countries reaching over 10,000 units. Finland saw the largest decline in markets recording five-digit figures or more, falling 14.1% compared to one year ago.

PHEVs plummet

Plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) plummeted in May, as deliveries decreased by 14.7% year-on-year to 59,333 units, the largest percentage drop of all popular powertrains. Its market share fell 0.9 percentage points (pp) compared to 12 months ago, sitting at 6.5%.

This was partly caused by double-digit registration slumps in Italy (down 30.5%), Spain (down 20.3%) and France (down 19.4%). Strong electric markets also struggled, including Belgium (down 36.6%), the Netherlands (down 5.7%), and Sweden (down 2.5%).

From January to May this year, the technology is up 2% year-on-year, thanks to 325,631 deliveries. Yet, its hold on the market has fallen to 7.1%, down 0.2pp.

The powertrain’s largest market, Germany, saw volumes climb 17.5% compared to the first five months of 2023.

The other five-digit markets of Portugal (up 22.7%), Sweden (up 10.1%), Netherlands (up 2.7%), Spain (up 1.3%) Belgium (up 0.7%) helped to boost registrations as well in the year to date. However, the technology’s poor performance in Italy (down 25.7%) has hampered figures.

Germany accelerates BEV drop

Battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) fell 12% last month, with 114,308 deliveries. The technology accounted for 12.5% of new-car registrations, down 1.3pp compared to May 2023.

This is the third decline for the powertrain since December 2023. Prior to that, the market had seen growth every month since the COVID-19 impacted period of April 2020.

The gap of over 15,000 units in May was largely caused by Germany, the largest market for all-electric vehicles, which dropped around 13,000 deliveries. An even bigger percentage drop was recorded in Sweden (down 34.7%) as Italy (down 18.3%), the Netherlands (down 11.7%), Portugal (down 6.8%) and Spain (down 0.4%) also suffered.

Despite this, France, the second biggest BEV market in the EU, saw volumes rise 5.4% year-on-year. Other regions that trended positively were Denmark (up 63%) and Belgium (up 44.8%).

In the year-to-date, BEV registrations are up by 2%, reaching 556,276 units. In this period, the powertrain recorded a 12.1% market share, dropping from 12.4%. The powertrain's performance could soon be affected by EU tariffs on Chinese-made BEVs.

The technology’s two biggest EU markets saw contrasting results, with deliveries in Germany down 15.9% year-on-year, while France surged 22.9%.

Other notable results included Belgium (up 47.1%) posting improvements, alongside Denmark (up 46.6%), Portugal (up 11.7%), the Netherlands (up 10%) and Spain (6.5%). However, Ireland (down 21.9%), Sweden (down 20.7%) and Italy (down 18.7%) slumped.

Combining BEV and PHEV registrations, the electric vehicle (EV) market declined 12.9% in May, with 173,641 units. This meant the plug-in sector lost 2.2pp of market share compared to one year ago, taking a 19% hold of the new-car market during the month.

Across the first five months of 2024, EVs accounted for 19.2% of deliveries, falling from 19.7%. This is despite a 2% increase in the year to date, reaching 881,907 registrations.

Standout hybrids

Hybrids, made up of full hybrids (HEVs) and mild hybrids (MHEVs), were the only powertrain to improve deliveries in the EU during May. The technology ended the month up 16.2% year-on-year, posting 272,568 units.

Compared to one year ago, hybrid’s market share surged 4.9pp last month to 29.9%, the only technology to increase its hold. This meant electrified powertrains took a 48.9% share of the EU’s new-car market in May, 0.4pp ahead of internal-combustion engine (ICE) models.

Registrations of hybrids in Poland, France and Spain surged 49.2%, 38.3% and 25.4% respectively. Italy improved its hybrid registrations by 7.4% year-on-year, while Germany was the only major market to post a decline in May, down 0.7%.

Hybrid powertrains were also the only technology to enjoy a double-digit increase from January to May this year, up 21.4% with 1.3 million units. Hybrids accounted for 29.2% of all deliveries, a jump from the 25.1% recorded in the same period one year ago. It was the only powertrain, apart from the ‘other’ category, to gain market share.

All six-digit markets for hybrid drives have retained double-digit growth so far in 2024. Poland is up 45.1% year-on-year, followed by France (up 37.3%), Spain (up 26.4%), Italy (up 13.3%) and Germany (up 11.3%). Out of all EU countries, only the smaller markets of Denmark, Estonia, Slovenia and Malta suffered declines.

Diesel drops

Diesel deliveries were down 11.4% last month, with 118,733 units. The powertrain’s market share was 13%, dropping from 14.3% in May 2023.

Germany was the only major market to post an increase in diesel registrations, up by 3.2%. In all, only three countries saw deliveries reach five figures, although Italy posted a 30.5% decline, and France recorded a drop of 24.8%.

Year-to-date, diesel reached 592,701 deliveries, an 8.8% decline compared to one year ago. The powertrain took a 12.9% hold of the new-car market, falling 1.9pp compared to 12 months ago.

As the only six-digit diesel markets, Germany and Italy's results contrasted, with a growth of 8.1% for the former, and a 20.9% decline for the latter. Elsewhere, the five-figure markets of Belgium (down 47%), France (down 26.3%) and Spain (down 21.7%) saw sharp decreases.

Petrol in pain

Petrol had the smallest drop of all powertrains in May, down 5.6% compared to 12 months ago, with 323,551 registrations. This resulted in market share falling to 35.5%, down 1pp year-on-year.

Germany posted the highest petrol registration total of all EU countries, followed by Italy. The two countries enjoyed increases of 2.1% and 4.1% respectively. Behind, France slumped 20.3%, as well as Poland (down 7.5%) Belgium (down 5.7%) and Spain (down 1.8%).

From January to May 2024, the powertrain’s 1.6 million deliveries were down by 0.4% compared to one year ago. This equated to a market share drop of 1.8pp to 35.5%.

Much of this loss can be attributed to France, which fell over 30,000 units year-on-year and saw deliveries decline 11.3%. The other six-digit markets of Italy, Germany and Spain improved registrations by 15.4%, 6.3% and 1% respectively.

May pulled the petrol market back into a decline in the year-to-date figures for the second time in 2024. In February, the powertrain had increased its deliveries by 5.4%, but a poor month in March saw this increase wiped out. Although April’s figures helped it back to a 1% rise over the first four months of 2024, the latest figures have again impacted the fuel type’s standing.

Frosty reception for ICE

Combining petrol and diesel deliveries, the ICE market posted 442,284 units last month, a drop of 7.2% compared to May 2023. The segment accounted for 48.5% of registrations, declining from the 50.8% share recorded one year ago.

ICE powertrains took a 48.4% hold of the new-car market across the first five months of the year. So far in 2024, electrified powertrains have achieved the same share.

The ‘others’ category, including hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles, natural gas vehicles, liquid petroleum gas vehicles, E85/ethanol, and other fuels, reached 23,204 units in May. This was down 19.1% year-on-year, with its market share dropping from 0.6pp to 2.5%.

However, in the year-to-date, the category recorded 147,847 deliveries, a growth of 8.8% compared to the same period one year ago. This meant its market share rose marginally to 3.2%.

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