The annualised selling rate for the West European car market dipped below 10m units in January as pandemic-related population restrictions continued, according to data released by LMC Automotive.

The data showed the car market for the region in January at just over 1m units and some 25.7% below the same month last year. LMC said the annualised selling rate (SAAR) nosedived to 9.9m units a year in January 2021, the lowest level since May last year.

The extension of lockdown measures in many key markets continues to suppress consumer demand, even though many showrooms can still offer 'click-and-collect' services.  Moreover, the end of some government-led incentives, alongside tax changes in certain markets, culminated in a particularly poor start to the year for West Europe registrations.

The German selling rate plummeted last month, down to 2.4m units a year, following the ending of the temporary VAT reduction in December 2020. For French registrations, the selling rate saw a more modest fall, down to 1.8m units a year. In Italy, the selling rate dropped to 1.5m units a year while the Spanish car market more than halved in YoY terms (with a SAAR of just 0.6m units a year). In the UK, the selling rate followed the region's downward trend, falling to under 1.4m units a year in January.

LMC said it has lowered its outlook for 2021 as lockdowns aimed at suppressing the spread of COVID-19 apply even greater downward pressure on near-term sales than previously assumed.

LMC analyst Jonathon Poskitt told just-auto that the rollout of vaccines is a bright spot in terms of the outlook, but cautioned the semiconductor shortage that is impacting production could restrict market supply. "We maintain the expectation that selling rates with improve from the summer onwards," he said. "However, the path of recovery hinges on the success of the vaccine roll out; added to this forecast risk, the auto chip shortage presents a further potential brake to near-term sales."

West Europe new car market by nation, January 2021

January 2021January 2020%chSAAR Jan 212020 full year actual%ch
WESTERN EUROPE7593311022465-25.7989101410792785-8.4

Source: LMC Automotive