EU car registrations up almost 10%

The rate of sales growth in the European Union (EU) passenger car market continued in September, with sales volumes once more rising by 9.8% year on year (y/y) to 1,356,868 units, according to the latest data published by the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA).

This lifted the year-to-date (YTD) increase in sales in the region to 8.8% y/y to 10,413,675 units.

The EU passenger car market recorded strong growth in all its major markets in September, with sales in the big-five European markets all recording growth, ranging from 4.8% y/y in Germany to 22.4% y/y in Spain. Once more, Spain and Italy in particular benefited from low base comparisons and from the ongoing improvements that are resulting from scrappage schemes and gradual economic recovery.

Although the latter remains precarious it appears that for now the threat of Greece’s exit from the Eurozone has abated, and this at least has stabilised the region’s economic outlook in the short term. The non EU28 countries – Iceland, Norway and Switzerland – posted a combined uplift of 9.8% y/y which exactly matched the overall growth rate recorded in the wider region.

Outlook and implications

Once more the passenger car market in the EU28 market remained buoyant in September and continued the growth that has been a consistent feature in the earlier months of the year. September marked the 24th consecutive month of growth and continued the superficially positive market environment when one looks at headline sales numbers.

There were a number of factors that supported growth during the month over and above the steady economic recovery in the region. September marked the end of the third quarter and therefore there was the usual effort by OEMs and dealers to meet sales targets and pre-register as many cars as possible.

In addition, there was the usual age-related plated change in the UK during the month which further bolstered sales and Spain continues to be fuelled by scrappage, although the funds are expected to be exhausted soon.

Commenting on the wider conditions in the market Carlos Da Silva, manager for IHS Automotive’s European light-vehicle sales forecast said, ‘Of course these factors would not suffice if, generally speaking, the social and economic situation in Europe was not significantly better than it was before.’

‘This is undoubtedly the case when looking five or six years back. It still stands true even when comparing to last year. This is not to say that Europe (and the Eurozone in particular) has become a gold mine overnight. Yet economic tensions have reduced markedly: credit availability is improving, energy costs are subdued, even unemployment is pointing down.’

‘This all combines to broadly improve the Europeans sentiment: as a piece of evidence, customer’s confidence in the region has been at its highest level since 2007 for the past few months. Autos markets throughout the zone are quite normally benefiting from this environment.’

However, Da Silva is also quick to point out that the current positive picture is somewhat relative. We are only seeing consistent and comparatively significant monthly rises as a result of the low base that has already gone before.

‘The market is still largely in recovery, catch up mode. Current healthy monthly growth rates are most probably not likely to remain as high for an extended period of time. Normalization, with more natural levels of demand, will end up taking over. This is unless some disruptive event happens in the meantime.’

Da Silva does not put the VW emissions affair in this category, ‘Of course Volkswagen itself will suffer in Europe (if only from reputational damage in the very first stage) and diesel in general, as a European specificity, will be hurt somewhat. Purchase behaviours, preferences, mixes… will certainly change faster than anticipated previously. But, as of today, we do not consider this can derail the market and pose a serious threat to its ongoing recovery.’ For the full year we see the EU28 rising by 7% y/y to 13.4 million units.