LMC Automotive European Passenger Car Sales Update (April 2019)

2019/05/09

Summary

  • West European car registrations fell 1% year‐on‐year (YoY) in April. The selling rate rose slightly, to 14.3 mn units/year in April, from 14.1 mn units/year in March.
  • German sales fell 1.1% YoY in April, which was enough to tip the year to date (YTD) position into negative territory (‐0.2%, YoY). Overall, though, German demand appears to be holding up well in the face of a sluggish economy. UK sales were down 4.1% YoY in April, as the market remains in the doldrums amid economic uncertainty.
  • French registrations grew 0.4% YoY in April, continuing a theme of unremarkable sales figures. The selling rate dropped to 2.1 mn units/year. In Spain, seven consecutive months of YoY decline came to an end, with an increase of 2.6% YoY, though for the first four months of the year, sales are still down 4.5% YoY. Similarly, Italy delivered its first YoY gain of 2019 in April, with car registrations growing by 1.5% YoY, as the selling rate climbed to 1.9 mn units/year.
  • April saw a slight improvement in the selling rate across most of Western Europe, but the relative stagnation in sales indicates that demand is not yet at the level required to put the region on track for solid growth. That said, there are some indications that macroeconomic conditions are looking more positive, with Italy exiting recession, the threat of a no deal Brexit more distant, and signs of a potential trade deal between the US and China. Overall, we still see a slight improvement in West European sales for 2019 as a whole, to the tune of 0.2% YoY.



Commentary

  West European car registrations were down 1% YoY in April, while the selling rate increased to 14.3 mn units/year, from 14.1 mn units/year in March. Several major markets had an additional selling day as compared to April 2018, but the selling rate takes account of this seasonal distortion, which was partly the result of the timing of Easter.

  German sales have proved resilient over the first four months of the year, almost matching 2018’s strong start. Registrations fell 1.1% YoY in April, but the selling rate picked up towards 3.5 mn units/year. As in 2018, we expect some cooling in the market as the year progresses, although the ride should be less bumpy than last year, as WLTP is no longer a major factor. In the UK, April sales decreased 4.1% YoY, though we have become accustomed to such results in recent times. The selling rate picked up marginally, towards 2.4 mn units/year, but there is no real sign of a substantial improvement in demand, despite the delay to Brexit. The market is currently being supported by fleet sales, while purchases by private individuals were down 10.3% YoY in April.

  Italy saw a welcome return to YoY growth in April, although the increase was unspectacular, at 1.5% YoY. Sales were boosted by both an extra selling day, as compared to April 2018, and the launch on 8th April of a new bonus system for lower‐emission cars. Given that limited resources have been set aside for the bonus payments, it is far from certain that any momentum can be carried through the remainder of the year, and it seems unlikely that the YTD contraction of 4.6% will be overturned by year‐end. The French market eked out growth of 0.4% YoY in April, while for the YTD, sales are down 0.4% YoY. The presence of an additional selling day in April this year as compared to April 2018 led to the selling rate falling to 2.1 mn units/year, the slowest pace of sales since December. In Spain, sales grew by 2.6% YoY, pushing the selling rate up towards 1.4 mn units/year, the highest the rate has been since last Summer, when the market was distorted by factors linked to WLTP. However, the headline growth masks the fact that sales to individuals were still down 17.3% YoY in April, while the market was supported by the hire and company car sectors.

Western European Passenger Car Sales Update


Sales (Units) Selling Rate (Units/year)
Apr
2019
Apr
2018
Percent
Change
YTD
2019
YTD
2018
Percent
Change
Apr
2019
YTD
2019
Year
2018
Percent
Change
WESTERN EUROPE
1,216,049
1,228,309
-1.0%
5,000,726
5,148,352
-2.9%
14,271,351
14,419,156
14,194,095
1.6%
AUSTRIA
32,064
31,904
0.5%
113,124
122,619
-7.7%
345,353
326,083
341,949
-4.6%
BELGIUM
53,498
54,602
-2.0%
209,364
220,159
-4.9%
570,815
610,330
549,632
11.0%
DENMARK
16,183
18,713
-13.5%
82,469
75,685
9.0%
192,713
245,970
218,486
12.6%
FINLAND
9,748
11,048
-11.8%
38,850
45,465
-14.5%
111,069
104,610
120,491
-13.2%
FRANCE
188,197
187,396
0.4%
741,537
744,254
-0.4%
2,110,747
2,167,164
2,173,523
-0.3%
GERMANY
310,715
314,055
-1.1%
1,190,807
1,192,666
-0.2%
3,467,553
3,625,169
3,435,832
5.5%
GREECE
11,807
10,830
9.0%
36,667
35,926
2.1%
117,697
115,949
104,186
11.3%
IRELAND
8,923
8,053
10.8%
73,044
79,813
-8.5%
120,322
114,690
125,594
-8.7%
ITALY
174,412
171,889
1.5%
712,196
746,712
-4.6%
1,934,821
1,883,586
1,909,433
-1.4%
LUXEMBOURG
5,642
5,371
5.0%
20,509
19,667
4.3%
53,901
56,967
52,807
7.9%
NETHERLANDS
33,149
33,852
-2.1%
148,751
169,531
-12.3%
469,383
436,451
443,812
-1.7%
NORWAY
11,255
14,055
-19.9%
49,740
47,854
3.9%
134,353
150,155
147,929
1.5%
PORTUGAL
21,102
21,463
-1.7%
80,422
84,632
-5.0%
249,333
227,487
228,067
-0.3%
SPAIN
119,417
116,433
2.6%
436,328
456,749
-4.5%
1,356,234
1,246,469
1,321,825
-5.7%
SWEDEN
30,253
34,215
-11.6%
104,133
121,612
-14.4%
345,856
329,535
353,666
-6.8%
SWITZERLAND
28,620
26,519
7.9%
100,685
98,608
2.1%
333,744
317,533
299,716
5.9%
UK
161,064
167,911
-4.1%
862,100
886,400
-2.7%
2,357,455
2,461,008
2,367,147
4.0%
Notes:

Greece and Luxembourg: estimates for latest month.
Greece data source has changed to Sales from Registrations.
The percent change in the final column compares the average selling rate in the year-to-date with the last full year.
The average of the seasonally adjusted selling rate for an entire year is by definition the total of sales in the year.