Fleets drive rise in sales in key markets in first half of 2021
Company car sales in Germany and UK help new car market recover, but total registrations are still well below 2019 levels.
New car sales for the first half of 2021 show Europe’s economies recovering from coronavirus but struggling to return to the levels of 2019.
Across the continent sales of passenger cars enjoyed double digit growth during the first half of 2021, with plug-in hybrid and electric cars proving to be particularly popular, while sales of diesel cars continued their rapid decline.
Figures from the ACEA reveal that new car registrations increased by 27.1% across the EU plus the UK and EFTA to 6,486,000 sales between January and June 2021, compared to the same period of 2020. But this total was 1.9 million units below the pre-COVID volume recorded in the first six months of 2019.
Sales in major markets
Europe’s five major new car markets all posted strong year-on-year gains for the first half of 2021:
- Italy up by 51.4% (884,750 registrations)
- UK up by 39% (909,973 registrations)
- Spain up by 34.4% (456,833 registrations)
- France up by 28.9% (922,765 registrations)
- Germany up by 14.9% (1,390,889 registrations)
Fleets were responsible for the majority of the gains in Germany, Europe’s largest new car market, with company car sales up 31.1% and returning to pre-crisis levels. Zero emission cars, both PHEV and EV, dramatically increased their share of the German fleet sector in June, accounting for 31.3% of new company cars, only marginally below diesel (36%).
In neighbouring France, the new car market in June fell by 14.7% in June compared to May, but sales for the first half of the year were still 28.9% up on 2020, although the 922,769 registrations were still down on France’s record 1,166,442 sales in the same period of 2019.
Across the Channel, year-to-date fleet sales were 47.8% up in 2021, compared to the same period of 2020, at 481,258 units, accounting for a 52.9% of all new car registrations (909,973). Diesel continued its long-term decline, with sales down 21.7% in the first half of 2021 to 93,087, less than the combined figure for BEV (73,893) and PHEV (58,207). Extremely attractive company car tax rates for vehicles capable of zero emission driving have seen fleets at the forefront of sales of EVs and PHEVs – Zenith, a top 10 fleet leasing company, reported in June that pure EVs accounted for 54% of its orders in June compared to 32% in June 2020, maintaining a trend that has seen pure EVs account for 41% of its new vehicle orders over the past 12 months.
In Italy, where sales for the first half of 2021 were 51.4% higher than the same period of 2020, but 18.3% down on the first six months of 2019, ANFIA called for government support to provide purchasing incentives for low emission cars (61-135 g / km of CO2). A sales incentive for these cars during the first two months of 2021 boosted sales by 40,000 units, according to ANFIA. Italian buyers are moving clearly away from diesel, which achieved a market share of just 23.8% in the first six months of 2021 (2020: 34.7%), while hybrid, PHEV and EVs cars accounted for a combined 35.2% of the market.
ANFAC, the manufacturer’s association in Spain, also highlighted how January to June sales in 2021 were down (-34%) on the same period of 2019, even if sales were 34.4% up on 2020. Restrictions on travel and tourism saw a 29% fall in sales to car rental companies, while demand from the private car sector remains weak. A temporary reduction in registration tax, until the end of this year, could stimulate the market in Spain, although the global shortage of semiconductors is undermining the supply of new cars, which could hold back sales throughout 2021.
Volkswagen expects the shortage of semiconductors to hit its sales in the second half of this year, after reporting a strong recovery in sales between January to June. Its first half sales of 733,846 units in the EU, EFTA and UK were 26.6% up on 2020, but well below the 944,526 of the same period in 2019.
Other manufacturers posted similar sales profiles, up on 2020, but significantly lower than 2019.
Toyota, however, proved the exception, its first half sales in the EU, EFTA and UK of 386,236 only marginally below the 388,542 it achieved in the same period of 2019.
NEW PASSENGER CAR REGISTRATIONS, BY MANUFACTURER (European Union + EFTA + UK, January to June 2021 (% change on 2020))
- Volkswagen 733,846 (+26.6%)
- Peugeot 423,374 (+33.9%)
- Toyota 386,236 (+38.6%)
- Renault 368,798 (+3.2%)
- BMW 375,809 (31.4%)
- Mercedes-Benz 348,527 (+17.5%)
- Skoda 346,435 (+24%)
- Audi 344,586 (+31.7%)
- Ford 308,369 (+13.9%)
- Fiat 280,692 (+34.3%)