Trend in new passenger car registrations in Europe 2020

The number of new car registrations in the European Union and the United Kingdom declined by about seven percent between February 2019 and 2020. UK car sales were 2.9 percent lower in February 2020, and the 27 European member states saw car sales decrease by around 7.4 percent in February 2020, compared with the same month one year earlier. In parts, registrations fell due to consumer uncertainty, a weakening economy, and changes in tax rates which resulted in higher than usual sales in previous months.

Consumer uncertainty in times of crisis

The drop in registrations strongly correlates with the coronavirus outbreak in Europe, and passenger vehicle registrations were down 8.8 percent in Italy, the European country most strained by the pandemic. However, the change in sales was most significant in Bulgaria, Romania, and Denmark. In relative terms, these markets were down between 19 and 30 percent. Furthermore, the German market contracted by almost 11 percent. This figure translates into around 29,000 fewer units sold year-on-year. Between January and February 2020, EU-27 car registrations slumped by around 150,000 units. Hence, consumers may well be attempting to ease their financial burden by postponing the purchase of a motor vehicle. More than every second car is sold in the three largest country markets, represented by Germany, France, and Italy.

Peak ahead of emissions regulations

In August 2018, European new-car intenders flocked to dealerships ahead of price increases tied to tougher emissions tests, and EU auto sales increased 31 percent over August 2017. It was the highest month-over-month growth rate between August 2018 and January 2020. Year-to-date, just under one million passenger cars have been sold to customers in the 27 EU markets in February 2020, while motorists in the United Kingdom purchased around 80,000 units. Prior to the UK's exit, Europe was one of the largest regional markets for passenger cars.

Change in new passenger car registrations in UK and EU markets from August 2018 to February 2020

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Release date

March 2020



Survey time period

August 2018 to February 2020

Supplementary notes

All values are estimates; figures for Malta unavailable.
The figures for August 2018 through January 2020 were taken from previous editions of the publication.
The 2020 values were derived by adding the volume of UK sales to the EU total. The UK is no longer a member of the EU.

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