Despite fewer sales days in the month versus last year, car sales in Western Europe were up 0.7% in February according to data issued by LMC Automotive.
The annualised selling rate for the month stood at 14.6m units a year and LMC said it reaffirmed the strong start to the year.
The ongoing improvements in car registrations in the region continue to reflect the generally positive news on the broader economy. Surveys have suggested that both consumer and business confidence have been on fairly solid footing, notwithstanding a dip in consumer confidence last month, and while inflation is set to impinge on household budgets, unemployment continues to ease.
“Recent results in Europe are certainly encouraging,” says LMC analyst Jonathon Poskitt. “It is good to see some demand momentum across the region.” However, he sounds a note of caution on the outlook citing political uncertainties. “We continue to note that uncertainty has the potential to act as a brake on growth, with elections in the Netherlands, France and Germany coming up this year. It is something to keep an eye on.”
February showed a mixed set of results for the big national markets.
In Germany, sales were down 2.6% year-on-year (YoY) but remain up in year-to-date (YTD) terms, at +3.5%. Despite the YoY comparison for last month, the selling rate for Germany – at 3.5m – continues to indicate strength in the region’s largest market.
The French market showed YoY and YTD results similar to those of Germany. In a traditionally quieter month for car registrations, the UK was only marginally down.
The Italian market stood out, its annualised selling rate climbing well above 2m units a year. LMC notes that the Italian car market is still catching up after many weak years that were dragged down by economic gloom.
The Spanish market slowed markedly last month, YoY proving to be little better than flat.