2021 (Q1): New passenger vehicle registrations in Europe (European Union, UK, and EFTA) were flat with car sales lower in Germany and the UK but stronger in France and Italy.
During the first quarter of 2021, new car sales in the European Union (EU), EFTA, and the UK increased by 0.9% from the first three months of 2020 but were still a quarter lower than at the start of 2019. Despite weaker sales, Germany remained by far the largest new car market in Europe thus far in 2021 but both France and Italy had stronger sales and moved ahead of the UK. Sweden showed the strongest increase in car sales in 2021 and was the only European country with higher car sales than two years ago. Volkswagen remained the best-selling car brand in Europe despite bleeding market share.
European New Car Market in 2021 (Q1)
New passenger vehicle registration in Europe (EU, EFTA, and the UK) increased by 0.9% during the first quarter of 2021. The recovery was strongest in March 2021 when sales increased by 87% in the EU. However, the European new car market was still a quarter — over a million vehicles — weaker than during the first quarter of 2019. The growth potential in the European new car market is strong but will depend not only on the broader economic recovery but also on the influence of lockdowns in various regions and the ability of carmakers to produce cars while supply chains are uncertain.
Although car sales in Europe increased slightly in 2021, sales were still the second lowest first quarter of the year for the previous decade. Car sales in the European Union increased by 3.2% and in EFTA by 5.1% but the 12% contraction in the UK was a strong drag on the whole market.
New car sales in Europe have been as follows during the first quarter of the year since 2011:
|EU + EFTA + UK||Car Sales||% Change|
Car Sales by European Countries in 2021 (Q1)
New passenger vehicle registrations in the European Union (EU), UK, and EFTA countries during the first three months of 2021 were as follows according to data released by the ACEA:
|European Country||Q1/2021||Q1/2020||% Change 20/21||Q1/2019|
|EUROPEAN UNION (EU)||2,560,330||2,480,186||+3.2||3,332,515|
|TOTAL (EU + EFTA + UK)||3,080,751||3,054,035||+0.9||4,146,822|
Top Car Markets in Europe in 2021 (Q1)
Germany remained the largest single-country car market in Europe during the first quarter of 2021 despite sales slipping by 6.4%. New car registrations in the UK were even weaker and the 12% contraction resulted in Britain slipping from the second-largest new car market in Europe to only fourth. However, the UK market could potentially recover fast, as many lockdown measures will no longer apply during the second quarter of the year.
Car sales in Italy increased by 29% to make the Italian market the second largest new car market in Europe — up from fourth a year ago. The French new car market grew by 21% to again take third place. In Spain, new car sales were down 15%.
The strongest growth in car sales in Europe during the first quarter of 2021 was in Sweden, Italy, and France. Sweden was the only European country with higher sales thus far this year compared to 2019 — largely due to weak sales in 2019 after a tax regime change.
The weakest performance of any European new car market thus far in 2021 was Portugal with sales down by almost a third. Of the larger markets, the Netherlands performed weakest with sales down by a fifth.
Volkswagen remained the best-selling car brand in Europe despite losing market share during the first quarter of 2021.