West European car registrations fell 1.6% year‐on‐year (YoY) in February. However, the selling rate picked up to 14.9 mn units/year in February, compared to 14.4 mn units/year in January.
Germany was the star performer of the major markets in February. Sales grew 2.7% in YoY terms, while the selling rate remained at the elevated level of 3.8 mn units/year. UK registrations increased by 1.4% YoY, despite an uncertain economic outlook and weak consumer confidence levels.
French car registrations grew by 2.1% YoY in February. For the year to date, French sales are up 0.5% YoY, which fits with our expectation that growth will be modest in 2019. Meanwhile, the Spanish car market fell 8.8% YoY in February, continuing a disappointing start to the year, although a high base effect is not helping the YoY comparison. In Italy, sales were down 2.4% YoY in February, but it seems likely that this market’s performance would have been worse, were it not for a tax change in March which may have pulled sales forward.
For the first two months of the year, registrations across the region are down 3.3% YoY. Nevertheless, the fact that the selling rate continues to improve, hitting a six‐month high in February, supports our view that Western Europe will see growth in 2019 as a whole, albeit of a modest nature. We currently forecast YoY growth of 0.6% for the full year, although a number of risks, including a potential no‐deal Brexit, continue to cast a shadow over the region.