West European car registrations fell by a colossal 52.9% year‐on‐year (YoY) in March — the regional selling rate dropped to just 6.6 mn units/year. A fall of this proportion is unprecedented in what is, generally, a mature, stable region. The spread of coronavirus COVID‐19 now dominates regional woes, with widespread government‐imposed lockdowns, and subsequent plant closures, having profound effects on both the demand and supply side of the automotive industry.
In Italy, sales contracted by 85.4% YoY, while the selling rate plummeted to 266k units/year. March saw Spanish registrations fall 69.3% YoY, with a selling rate of just 361k units/year. Similarly, French registrations were down 72.2% YoY, with the selling rate managing just 616k units/year. For the UK, sales were 44.4% lower YoY — the selling rate dropped to 1.3 mn units/year. Meanwhile, the German selling rate fell to 2.1 mn units/year, with volumes down 37.7% YoY.
The initial weak start to the year for registrations, related to a pull forward into December 2019, has been dwarfed by the devastating impact of the spread of COVID‐19. Our base case assumes a V‐shaped recovery once the spread of the virus across the region is brought under control, with selling rates picking up through H2 2020. The annual forecast for 2020 is currently pencilled in at 11.7 mn units, but with extended or further lockdowns through the year, the market could fall well below levels seen during the Eurozone Crisis (11.5 mn units in 2013).