New passenger vehicle registrations in the European Union and EFTA set new records despite flat sales during the first quarter of 2018. Germany, Britain, Italy, France and Spain were the largest single country new car markets in Europe.
March 2018: New car sales in the European Union (EU) and EFTA countries contracted by 5% leaving the market flat during the first quarter of 2018. However, the first quarter of 2018 was the best start to the year ever for car sales in Europe. Germany remained the largest car market in Europe. Car sales were sharply down in the UK while the Italian car market contracted slightly. Car sales in France were higher while the Spanish new car market expanded by more than 10%.
European New Car Market in 2018 (Q1)
New passenger vehicle registrations in the EU and EFTA increased by only 0.6% to 4,282,134 cars during the first three months of 2018. In the EU, sales increased by 0.7% to 4,171,628 cars. This was still the strongest first quarter for car sales in Europe ever.
The flat European new car market thus far in 2018 is largely due to a weak March 2018. New car sales in the EU and EFTA contracted by 5.2% in March 2018 – the first weaker March since 2014.
The weaker numbers are partly due to March 2017 being the strongest sales month on record. In the UK, where March is traditionally by far the most important month for car sales, sales were down by 15%. Having part of the Easter long weekend in March 2018 also affected the market slightly in some markets.
Car Sales Per EU and EFTA County in 2018 (Q1)
New passenger vehicle registrations in various European Union (EU) and EFTA countries during the period January to March 2018 were as follows according to the ACEA:
|Q1/2018||Q1/2017||% Change 17/18|
|EU + EFTA||4,282,134||4,256,637||+0.6|
|— EUROPEAN UNION||4,171,628||4,140,974||+0.7|
Largest Car Markets in Europe in 2018 (Q1)
The German new car market expanded by 4% during the first quarter of 2018 while the British new car market shrank by 12% – the worst performance of any car market in the EU thus far in 2018. As a result, the gap in market size increased from around 25,000 cars during the first three months of 2017 to 160,000 cars during the first quarter of 2018.
In the UK, the very important March month – when registration numbers change – were relatively weak with sales down 15%. The British market was also hit hard by uncertainty over future regulations on diesel vehicles.
Car sales in Italy were also slightly weaker allowing the French market to half the gap compared to a year ago. The Italian market often performs better than the French new car market during the first months of the year.
The Spanish, Polish and Dutch new car market expanded by double-digit figures during the first quarter of 2018. The Belgian market was flat.
In Austria, car sales increased slightly while in Sweden new car sales were weaker by similar numbers – sufficient for the two countries to swap rank positions from a year ago.
The worst performing new car markets during the first quarter of 2018 were the UK and Norway.
The best performing new car market in Europe during the first three months of 2018 all saw an expansion of more than a quarter: Hungary, Romania, Croatia, Greece and Bulgaria.
Volkswagen remained the largest carmaker in Europe with VW the top-selling car brand and the VW Golf the best-selling car model during the first quarter of 2018. See 2018 (Q1) Europe: Best-Selling Car Manufacturers and Brands.