LMC Automotive European Passenger Car Sales Update (March 2021)

2021/04/08

Summary

  • The West European selling rate rose to 11.3 mn units/year in March, a muted improvement that ends the first quarter of 2021 on a disappointing note. Sales activity has remained sluggish due to continued restrictions on activity, allowing no space for the auto sector to gain any serious momentum towards a sustained recovery from the ongoing crisis.

  • In the UK, in a month which normally sees the strongest result of the year, sales uninspired as the selling rate fell to 1.5 mn units/year. For France, the selling rate improved slightly to 1.8 mn units/year, even though there were restrictions on car sales. Spanish registrations saw a modest uptick in March as the selling rate rose to 820k units/year, though this low figure shows market weakness remains. In Italy, the selling rate remained low at 1.6 mn units/year. Finally, in Germany sales did improve on the previous month as the selling rate rose to 2.9 mn units/year.

  • Our outlook for 2021 has been trimmed since last month’s report by circa 80k units. The news of a third wave of the virus in mainland Europe has led to many key markets extending or strengthening their restrictions, this added to by further disruption to already relatively slow vaccine progress. The auto chip shortage is a further headwind currently faced by the auto market that complicates the near‐term picture. However, these immediate disruptions are temporary, and we maintain our expectation of improved in selling rates over H2 2021, as mass immunisation should allow restrictions to be lifted and lead to a more favourable selling environment for the region’s automotive industry.