European car registrations flat in May on fewer sales days

Fallout from diesel emissions scandal has weighed on sales

Photograph: iStock

Photograph: iStock


European car sales rose a marginal 0.6 per cent in May from the same month a year ago after posting robust growth the previous month, industry data showed on Friday.

The slower growth was due in part to fewer working days. Registrations rose to 1.44 million cars last month in the European Union (EU) and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries, Brussels-based Association of European Carmakers (ACEA) said, from 1.43 million a year earlier.

European car sales rose 9.6 per cent in April, helped by the timing of this year’s Easter holiday, which resulted in showrooms being open for business on more days.

European car sales returned to annual growth in 2014 after a six-year slump during which registrations fell to their lowest in decades.

Diesel fallout

Demand has been growing most months since, as a pick up in consumer confidence, retail incentives and new product launches lured customers back to the showrooms, although the fallout of the diesel emissions scandal has weighed.

Sales by France’s PSA Group soared 57.8 per cent in May as registrations of the newly-acquired Opel-Vauxhall division were not included in year-earlier records.

Demand for the French carmaker’s Peugeot brand also grew 3.2 per cent, but fell 3.3 per cent for Citroen.

French rival Renault also posted a 6.5 per cent increase, beating 3.7 per cent growth at Europe’s biggest carmaker, Volkswagen, whose sales were lifted by healthy demand for its namesake brand, its premium marque Porsche and a double-digit rise at Spanish unit Seat. Sales at Japan’s Toyota grew 4.2 per cent, helped by a healthy 21 per cent gain at its Lexus brand.

Fiat falls

But May registrations were flat at Italian-American carmaker Fiat Chrysler, hit by an 11 per cent drop in demand for its mass-market Fiat brand and despite sales of its popular Jeep SUVs doubling.

Premium German carmakers BMW and Daimler posted declines of 6.0 percent and 5.7 per cent, respectively.

Among the five major markets, sales were flat in France, but grew in the United Kingdom and Spain, up 3.4 per cent and 7.2 per cent, respectively. British car sales rose for the second month in a row in May as demand was recovering from weaker consumer confidence in the wake of the Brexit vote.

Registrations contracted 2.8 per cent in Italy, which was rocked by political turmoil last month, and fell 5.8 per cent in the region’s biggest market, Germany.

For the first five months of 2018, European sales increased 2.2 per cent, helped by double-digit growth in new EU member states including Bulgaria, Lithuania, Romania and Hungary. – Reuters