West European car registrations grew by 20.6% year‐on‐year (YoY) in December. This is a particularly strong headline result, showing further recovery from a September low, and buoyed by substantial YoY growth in all five major economies. A weak December 2018 explains part of the YoY result, though the relatively strong selling rate activity suggests some pull‐forward in sales prior to the 2020 CO2 targets. In full‐year terms, registrations rose by a more modest 0.7% to 14.3 mn units, kept from negative growth territory by December’s strong result.
The German selling rate rose to 4.0 mn units/year in December, while YoY sales growth remained strong at 19.5%. UK sales were up 3.4% YoY in December, with Brexit‐based uncertainty diminished by the election result but not fully addressed. In Spain, sales for December rose 6.6% YoY, with total annual sales falling by 4.8% to under 1.3 mn units/year. Italy saw annual sales of 1.9 mn units, 0.3% higher than last year, aided by YoY sales growth of 12.5% for December. French registrations saw 27.7% YoY growth in December, with the annual total climbing above 2.2 mn units.
Regionally, full‐year 2019 sales were up 0.7% from 2018, in line with our expectations in previous reports. Our 2020 forecast has been lowered due to the strength of December 2019 and associated pull‐ forward in registrations, though we continue to forecast 14.0 mn units for the year. All meaningful economic challenges in 2019 can be expected to persist into 2020, particularly in light of the external trade environment and Brexit uncertainty.