Passenger car: registrations down 1.7% in first quarter 2008

Brussels, 15/04/2008 – New passenger car registrations fell by 9.5% in March compared to last year, bringing the quarterly figure down to -1.7%.

Brussels, 15/04/2008 – New passenger car registrations fell by 9.5% in March (1), bringing the quarterly figure down to -1.7% compared with registrations in the first three months of last year. In a context of economic uncertainty generated by the US financial crisis, car sales in Western Europe were affected most by the decline, with monthly registrations dropping by 10.2%, whereas the new Member States still posted growth in March (+3.5%) and the first quarter (+14.7%). The March results were also negatively influenced by the holiday of Easter being celebrated early this year: in most countries, the Easter holiday led to two less processing days compared to 2007 (2). In total, over 1,650,000 new cars were registered (1).

Registrations in Western Europe dropped by 10.2% in March compared to the same month last year. Only the UK and Portugal saw new car demand rise by 0.5% and 5.2% respectively. The British market improved compared to January and February, remaining stable in the first quarter (-0.7%), although forecasts for GDP growth this year suggest a significant softening. The German market, despite a 14.4% decrease in March (partly due to a distortion in the February and March 2007 figures (3)), proved robust with a 2.6% upturn three months into the year. Overall, more than half of the Western European countries ended the quarter on a positive note. The French market resumed an upward trend commenced last summer (+1.3%) after a weak January when green tax measures entered into force. The situation in Spain, however, has become less buoyant with the withdrawal of the so-called Prever scrapping incentives on January 1, 2008. Demand declined by 15.3% over the first quarter and by 28.2% in March. The month was also difficult for the Italian market, which registered 18.8% fewer new cars, and 10% less for the whole quarter. Weak consumer confidence (4), which stood at its lowest in four years, the pre-elections climate and the overall economic setting contributed to the fall in Italy.

The markets in the new EU Member States remained on a growth path, with eight countries out of ten posting an increase over the first quarter of 2008. Poland registered the most new cars during that period (86,926 units or a 19.5% increase). Among the four biggest markets, Romania recorded the largest growth (+23.6% or 74,028 units). Hungary registered 42,559 new cars (+3.5%), and the Czech Republic 33,026 (+9.7%). 

1. Please note that registration figures for Denmark were still incomplete at the time of publication.

2. Three less days in Germany, the UK, Greece, Sweden, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia; four less days in Spain and Denmark

3. In 2007, the Germany’s Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) produced its February monthly report before the end of that month. Cars registered at the end of February were reported in March, thus distorting the comparison with March 2008.

4. As measured by ISAE – the Institute for Studies and Economic Analyses


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About the EU automobile industry

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