The decline of the European new car market continued throughout February as JATO Dynamics data showed 1,063,264 units were registered last month, compared to 1,143,852 in February 2019, a fall of 7% year on year and the lowest number of February registrations since 2015 (955,113).

January volume fell 7.6% and the first two months of this year saw a cumulative fall of 7.3% to 2,194,706 units.

“The situation is rapidly deteriorating in Europe due to complex regulation, lack of available homologated cars, and increasing pressure on the economy,” said analyst Felipe Munoz.

“All of these factors are having a detrimental impact on consumer confidence.”

Data to 29 February showed the impact of COVID-19 had yet to hit the European automotive market.

Electrified vehicle registrations jumped from 75,400 units in February 2019 to 135,500 last month. The increase of over 80% came at the expense of diesel and petrol cars with significantly fewer registrations.

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By GlobalData

“So far this year, electrified vehicles have been the only lifeline for manufacturers operating in Europe. This is good news, as the industry’s electrification plans have finally seen a positive response from consumers,” said Munoz.

The volume of EVs more than doubled in Germany and France, their biggest markets. EVs accounted for 75% of all passenger cars registrations in Norway, 33% in Sweden, 31% in Finland, 22% in Netherlands and 17% in Hungary. France led among the big five markets, with an EV penetration of 14%, compared with 13% in the UK, 11% in Germany, 10% in Spain, and 8.6% in Italy.

As EVs have increasingly become a viable alternative to gasoline and diesel cars, SUVs are now struggling in the competitive environment. Registrations fell 1.7% to 415,300 units, taking the year to date total to 865,500, down 1.4% year on year.

The fall was due to compact SUVs declining 3.7% in contrast to the strong growth experienced by large SUVs, up 17%.

Although there was a decrease in SUV registrations, market share increased due to the overall downturn.

Midsize cars posted the highest growth in all segments thanks to the BMW 3 Series, boosted by the new generation, and the Volkswagen Passat. Their combined registrations made up 31% of midsize segment volume.

Unlike last year, positive results for midsize cars were not thanks to the Tesla Model 3 volume of which fell 6%.

Last year, sedans/saloons were the second most preferred body type among consumers of passenger cars. Their global sales totaled 18.85m units, equating to one in four passenger vehicles. However, their volume fell by 6.8%.

Vans also saw an increased in registrations, coming very close to beating the market share of MPVs, down 27%.

The negative landscape also affected model ranking. The Volkswagen Golf was dethroned by the Renault Clio as the top selling car in Europe, as the new generation hit the dealers. This was due to the redesigned Clio having been available for longer. Other changes within the top 10 included the Fiat Panda moving to fifth and SUVs falling from the rankings entirely.

Big improvers for the month included the Fiat 500, BMW 3 Series, Volkswagen Passat, Hyundai Kona, BMW 1 Series, Audi A4, Volvo XC40 and Citroen C5 Aircross. Among the latest launches were 13,600 units registered by the Toyota Corolla, 11,600 Volkswagen T-Cross, 7,500 Ford Puma, 6,700 Skoda Kamiq, 5,100 Skoda Scala and 4,600 Mazda CX-30. The Audi Q3 Sportback registered 3,900 units, Kia Xceed 3,700 and both the Audi E-Tron and DS 3 Crossback registered 2,300 units each.