Europes car market grew by 2.5% to 14.3m units in 2017; it will likely be close to 14.5m in 2018

Europe's car market grew by 2.5% to 14.3m units in 2017; it will likely be close to 14.5m in 2018

West European car sales fell by 5.2% year-on-year in December, according to data released by LMC Automotive.  However, the decline was impacted by the holidays calendar which meant most markets faced two fewer selling days compared with last year.

For 2017 overall, the market expanded by 2.5% to 14.3m units, the fourth consecutive year of growth, and the best result since 2007.

A market in excess of 14m units compares quite favourably with pre-crisis markets. From 2000 to 2007 the market averaged 14.7m units a year. Last year's total represents the fourth consecutive year of growth, and the best result since 2007. There were significant market gains in all of the major national markets, with the exception of the UK. Highlights included ongoing recoveries in Italy and Spain (respectively adding 145k and 88k units in 2017; Italy at just under 2m units and Spain at 1.38m), Germany surpassing 3.4m units, and France growing to 2.1m units.

However, the UK market was the outlier among the major markets, down 5.7% compared to the record 2016 result - although a market exceeding 2.5m units is still the third highest over the past decade.

For 2018, the West European car market is widely forecast to expand once again, though at a somewhat slower rate. Growth of around 1% would leave the West European car market still under 14.5m units.

On the plus side, Italy and Spain still have plenty of potential for expansion, and Spain's selling rates in recent months certainly indicate that the market could exceed 1.3m units for the year. For Italy, vehicle fleet age and reasonable, if not robust, economic expansion suggest further growth. Germany saw annualised selling rates increasing to over 3.5m units a year in the final months of 2017; while there is some potential for growth in 2018, it is fairly limited from current levels. The UK car market is expected to continue to act as a drag on regional sales this year, with selling rates having weakened somewhat in recent months; higher price inflation is putting pressure on household budgets, while Brexit and diesel uncertainties (diesel share of the UK car market was under 38% by the end of the year) continue.

UK new car market declined in 2017

Western European car sales by country, December 2017

Dec 2017Dec 2016change2017 full-year2016 full-yearchange
WESTERN EUROPE10297541086044-5.214301189139525292.5
AUSTRIA2569025726-0.13541743296687.4
BELGIUM2807233523-16.35465585395191.3
DENMARK1651619394-14.8221817222916-0.5
FINLAND80688151-1118583119000-0.4
FRANCE193375194372-0.5211075120151174.7
GERMANY253950256533-1344126233515272.7
GREECE8005.232618529.489246.237783814.7
IRELAND160434-63.1131356146649-10.4
ITALY121100125062-3.2197049718258927.9
LUXEMBOURG2863.0523065-6.652792.05505614.4
NETHERLANDS1751235505-50.74145383825148.4
NORWAY160771360218.21586501546032.6
PORTUGAL17058169950.42221342073307.1
SPAIN102943968886.2123493111470097.7
SWEDEN3482037262-6.63792553722821.9
SWITZERLAND3107235325-12314028317318-1
UK152473178022-14.425406172692786-5.7

Source: LMC Automotive

Notes:    Greece and Luxembourg: estimates for latest month                        
    Greece data source has changed to Sales from Registrations.