The European new car market returned to growth in April thanks to substantial increases in all big five markets for the first time in twelve months.
The latest figures released by the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) show the market growing by 9.6% last month with a total of 1,306,273 new vehicles registered. This is in contrast to March, which saw a sales drop of 5.3%, the first in four years.
The rise in sales comes as the continent’s big five markets all posted an increase in their registrations for the first time since March 2017. The UK finally returned to growing year-on-year sales in April after twelve months of decline, following new vehicle excise duty (VED) rates and the drop in diesel vehicle sales.
During April, Spain recorded the biggest market growth of the top five, with registrations up by 12.3%. The UK followed this with a rise in sales of 10.4%, with France up 9%, Germany increasing its market by 8% and Italy growing 6.5%.
Looking at the year-to-date figures, the European market is up by 2.7% compared to the first four months of 2017, as the UK continues to suffer from its poor first quarter of the year. Spain again leads the way, with sales up 11%, while Germany is in second with registrations growing 5%, and France next with a 4.4% rise. Despite the impressive growth highlighted by the UK, which was based on a number of factors including poor weather in March and two extra working days, the country’s market is down year-to-date by 8.8%
The new EU member states performed very well so far in 2018, with registrations increasing by 12.5%. Overall, 5,478,442 new passenger cars were registered in the EU during the first four months of the year.
Amongst vehicle manufacturers, Volkswagen Group (VW) again remained the leading brand in Europe, with sales up 13.8% across all brands, and 19.6% up at the company’s main VW unit. They were followed by PSA Group, whose sales were up 70% in April. However, as Opel and Vauxhall brands were only added to the company’s totals in August of last year, it will be another few months until true sales figures are seen. Renault took third place with sales up 9.7% in April.
BMW posted a small loss of 1.4% during the month, not helped by a 3.4% drop in the company’s main brand, while Mini sales grew 8%. Honda also lost 0.4% of sales, while Fiat dropped 4.7%, although thanks to strong sales of Jeep models, Fiat Chrysler (FCA) posted a rise of 2% in April. Ford also saw strong sales growth, perhaps in part to the increase of the UK market, posting a gain of 14% in the month.