May Car Sales Still Low in EU

There are signs of moderate recovery in May for passenger car registrations across the European Union, according to the latest data from the European Automobile Manufacturers Association.

Sales picked up from disastrous decreases in April, but the downward trend nonetheless continued. New passenger car registrations in the EU fell year-on-year by 52.3% to 581,161, from 1.2 million in the same month of 2019.

Of the 27 EU members in the tally, the hardest hit were Spain, which saw sales drop by 72.7%, and France, where they decreased 50.3%, followed by Italy at 49.6% and automotive powerhouse Germany at 49.5%.

“The good news from ACEA is that car production plants across Europe are reopening and manufacturing is restarting,” David Wright, director general of the United Kingdom Lubricants Association, told Lube Report. “The not so good news is that car sales have fallen off a cliff right across the continent, and the new car market faces a perfect storm of stalled consumer demand due to the uncertain jobs market, at the same time they are sitting on high residual stocks when demand began to fall prior to March.”

In absolute numbers, VW Group came out worst, selling 204,272 fewer units than the 360,044 it sold in May of 2019. Daimler’s sub-brand Smart lost the most in percentage terms, down by 90 percent year-on-year to 928 units.

“Basically, the drop is easing, but manufacturers are taking hits across the board, without exception,” Nick Augusteijn, a motoring analyst based in the Netherlands, told Lube Report.

Even so, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, a U.K. trade body, it could take up to two years for demand to return to normal levels, “whatever the new normal is,” Wright said.

News from the EV segment was slightly less bleak for carmakers, if not lube companies. The portion of registered vehicles that were electrified rose to 6.8% in the first quarter of the year, up from 2.5% during the same period of 2019. 

“I expect car markets in Germany, France and the Netherlands to pick up in June and July, as very generous incentives for battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids – the latter only in France and Germany – have been announced for these markets,” Augusteijn said.

The United Kingdom, a key market for European and Asian carmakers, is expected to follow suit in July, and even Greece has earmarked a small amount for incentives, Augusteijn said.

“This coincides with a resumption of production, making available many of the newly announced BEVs, such as the important Opel Corsa-e, Peugeot e-208 and the Volkswagen ID.3,” Augusteijn said.

Photo: Ronald Rampsch/stock.adobe.com

New passenger cars manufactured in Germany are lined up for export. Sales among EU countries picked up in May after a steep drop in April but remained well below year-earlier results.