European market falters in March, signalling turmoil for EV fortunes

EU car registrations dropped 5.2% in March with sales of electric cars dropping 11.3% and petrol and diesel sales also in free fall.

“It is unfortunate to see that the final month of the quarter has not continued the growth experienced in January and February, with March seeing a contraction in the EU car market,” said Sue Robinson, chief executive of the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA), commenting on the latest European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) figures.

She said the downturn underscores the challenging conditions facing the industry at this time of political uncertainty.

Major markets like Germany (-6.2%), Spain (-4.7%), Italy (-3.7%), and France (-1.5%) saw new car registrations decline although Italy (+5.7%), France (+5.7%), Germany (+4.2%), and Spain (+3.1%) experienced solid growth.

There was a shift in power sources with battery-electric car registrations declining by -11.3% in March, although Belgium (+23.8%) and France (+10.9%) saw increases.

This -11.3% decline resulted in a decrease in market share from 13.9% to 13%.

Hybrid-electric cars rose by 12.6%, with France (+29.6%) and Italy (+8.3%) showing significant growth.

Plug-in hybrid registrations fell by -6.5%, indicating a shift in consumer trends towards hybrid electric.

Petrol cars were significantly impacted, with sales dropping by -10.2%. Notable reductions were seen in France (-17.7%), Spain (-10.1%), and Germany (-3.4%) for both petrol and diesel, while Italy saw growth in petrol sales but a decline in diesel.

Diesel saw an even steeper decline of -18.5% in March. The largest markets, again, saw substantial declines, with France recording a -32.2% contraction, Spain a -38%, Italy a -27.6%, and Germany a much more modest -0.5%. The significant downturn in ICE sales far outweighs that of its electric counterparts.

Robinson concluded: “Ultimately, March’s performance fell short of expectations, especially compared to the successes of January and February and the UK car market’s growth.

“It is disappointing to see EV sales have witnessed a significant decline. This is especially true considering the EU Parliament recently passed the Euro 7 bill. With auto sector CEOs calling for EU leaders to create the conditions for EV competitiveness and market demand it seems that March signals a period of tumult for the EV market despite most major markets being ahead of the UK in offering price incentives for EV registrations.”

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