Passenger car registrations continue rise

Passenger car registrations in the European Union have continued to grow during the opening month of 2016, according to the latest data released by ACEA.

According to the latest data released by the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA), registrations during January have grown by 6.2% year-on-year (y/y) to 1,061,150 units. In addition, in the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) area – comprising Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland – registrations grew by 9.5% y/y to 32,415 units.

On a market basis, all of the top-five largest markets in the region have recorded gains in January. However, while Germany, France, and the UK saw relatively moderate improvements, with gains behind that seen by the region as a whole, the Spanish and Italian markets, which are continuing to recover from the depths that they hit during the height of the economic crisis, recorded far stronger improvements. However, data from their respective local associations have shown that the types of customer underpinning this were different, with Spain benefiting from company car and rental demand for the forthcoming holiday season, and a large part of the improvement in Italy stemming from private consumers returning to the market, attracted by dealers’ incentives.

Outside this group, strong gains have also been recorded in some markets. Ireland, Portugal, and a host of markets in Central Europe are continuing to record improvements following the Eurozone economic downturn and the low base of comparison. However, the Netherlands has seen a relatively heavy decline of 14.4% y/y as it was hit by a tax change that has taken place in the market.

From an OEM perspective, the Volkswagen (VW) Group saw a relatively marginal improvement in the EU this month with an increase of 0.8% y/y, although it remained easily the largest automaker at 256,989 units. Its performance was dragged down by the VW brand, which slid by 3.8% y/y to 124,149 units.

Elsewhere, PSA Peugeot-Citroën and Renault Group also made gains behind that of the market as a whole, although more significant increases were seen elsewhere. This included Ford (+11.4% y/y), Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA; +14.4% y/y), and General Motors’ (GM) Opel Group (+12.2% y/y), helping all three to make gains in market share. Premium automakers also had a decent month, with BMW Group seeing an increase of 4.0% y/y, Daimler 8.5% y/y, and Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) 53.8% y/y, thanks to the Land Rover Discovery Sport and Jaguar XE sales now in full swing.

While the gain in January comes as no surprise, the weaker rate at which this is taking place is nothing to be concerned about, according to Carlos Da Silva, manager of IHS Automotive’s European light-vehicle sales forecast. He notes that one of the reasons for this is the negative calendar effect in many markets where one fewer day was recorded compared to January 2015. In addition, the fourth quarter of 2015 was particularly strong, which may have distorted comparisons.