European new car registrations up 21%

December was another unpredictable month for European new car registrations. Total volume grew by 21 per cent to 1,258,412 units, the highest level ever recorded for the month of December.

Monthly growth levels have not been this high since August 2018, when the impact of the WLTP regulation caused an artificial spike. Similarly to August 2018, December’s growth can be explained by looking at new regulations impacting the industry. Last month, car manufacturers took last minute action to replace gas-guzzling vehicles no longer deemed acceptable under EU emissions regulations which came into effect on 1 January 2020.

The new regulations bring in a 95 gm/km target, which is still a long way off for many manufacturers who rushed for last minute registrations and triggered the unusual growth. The country rankings tell a similar story, with registrations increasing in all countries except Norway and Lithuania, and 23 of the 27 markets analysed recording double-digit growth.

SUVs continued their strong performance in December with 524,500 units registered, or 42 per cent of total volume. SUVs continue to be the main driver of growth in Europe despite their high contribution to CO2 emissions and risk of potential fines.

Electrified vehicles emerged as another big winner in December with demand soaring by 69 per cent – equating to 132,200 units or 11 per cent market share. In fact, the Tesla Model 3 was the most exciting performer of the closing month of 2019. With 22,100 units, it became the third best-selling model in the rankings, outselling other popular cars like the Volkswagen Polo, Peugeot 208, Nissan Qashqai and Skoda Octavia.

EVs are closing the gap at an impressive rate when compared to their diesel counterparts. In December 2018, there were 4.6 diesel cars for every EV sold; a year later the ratio has fallen significantly to 2.9.