Figures released by ACEA today show that European new passenger car registrations fell by 7.8% to 14,712,158 units in 2008, recording the sharpest decline since 1993 as the international financial crisis and economic downturn hit car demand.
 
New car demand in 2008 dropped by 8.4% in Western-Europe, confirming data released earlier this month by JD Power and published by just-auto. In Western Europe the downturn was most prominent in the last quarter (-19.3% compared to the fourth quarter of 2007).
 
ACEA also said new car registrations in the new EU Member States slipped by 0.7% in 2008, similarly affected by a worsening performance towards the end of the year. In absolute numbers, Poland remained the major market, consolidating its position with a 9.4% increase. The Czech Republic (+8.4%) also recorded a plus, but Romania (-8.7%) and Hungary (-9.2%) contracted.

December new registrations in the EU's Central Europe region mirrored the overall decline in demand following the economic crisis. The 10.7% decrease is the sharpest drop recorded since ACEA started reporting figures for the new EU Member States in 2004.

In December, European car registrations declined by 17.8%, or the second worst performance in 2008 following the 25.8% decrease in November. ACEA said the December downturn was cushioned somewhat by the on average two more working days across the region, whereas November had two working days less.

Looking at the major markets in Western Europe, Spain recorded in 2008 the steepest fall (-28.1%) in the history of its market. Italy also posted a two-digit decrease (-13.4%), with no month recording a plus. The market in the UK also contracted by more than 10% (-11.3%) while registrations decreased to a lesser extent in Germany (-1.8%) and France (-0.7).

In December the market dropped by 61.9% in Ireland, 49.9% in Spain, 21.2% in the UK, 15.8% in France, 13.3% in Italy and 6.6% in Germany. The overall downturn in Western Europe was 18.5% in December.

Jaguar and Nissan up on hot product

Among major European manufacturers, Volkswagen posted a 4.4% decline in full year sales, Renault a 6.9% drop, PSA was down 9.1% and Fiat off 5.5%.

GM saw its 2008 European sales fall by 13.9% while Chrysler's were on the slide to the tune of 22.5%. However, Ford turned in a relatively good performance with sales down 'just' 5.2%.

Gainers were few, but Jaguar posted an XF-infused gain of 12.6% while Nissan was boosted by its hugely successful Qashqai crossover to a gain of 8.8% in the year.