The West European car market was down 21.3% year-on-year during the month of February according to data released by LMC Automotive.

The sizeable drop was expected with many markets impacted by pandemic restrictions that closed dealerships and kept people at home.

However, the annualised selling rate (SAAR) for the region was up slightly in February, to 10.3m units a year.

February’s SAAR for the largest national car market, Germany, remained low, at just 2.7m units a year. LMC said a VAT distortion hangover damaged a market already restrained by lockdown measures. For the UK, the selling rate improved slightly on January, but was still weak, at 1.6m units a year.

Spanish registrations remained low as the selling rate came in at just 660k units a year. In France, the selling rate fell further, to 1.6m units a year in February, while Italy’s selling rate remained flat at 1.5m units a year.

LMC said its outlook for 2021 has been lowered by circa 100k units since last month’s report – the West European car market is now forecast at 12.12m units for 2021 (compares with 10.79m unit sales in 2020 and 14.29m in pre-pandemic 2019). It said ongoing lockdown measures seen across the region are suppressing demand well below pre-crisis levels.

LMC Automotive analyst Jonathon Poskitt told just-auto that the region’s relatively slow roll out of vaccines is also a factor in the slightly more subdued outlook. “That will inevitably draw out the selling rate recovery,” he said. “Even so, we maintain our expectation of a marked improvement in sales for full-year 2021, particularly in the second half as restrictions should be lifted and consumer confidence could gain some much-needed momentum.”