EU car sales fell to a new low last year as the auto sector was hampered by the Covid pandemic and a shortage of computer chips, industry figures showed on Tuesday (January 18th).
New passenger car registrations in the EU fell 2.4% in 2021, to 9.7 million vehicles, the worst performance since records began in 1990, according to data from the European Manufacturers Association. cars (ACEA).
This follows the historic fall of almost 24% suffered in 2020 due to pandemic restrictions, and has brought new car registrations in the EU down to 3.3 million below pre-pandemic sales. 2019 crisis.
The lack of semiconductors, the computer chips used in a multitude of automotive systems in traditional and electric vehicles, was the main reason holding the industry back.
“This drop was the result of the shortage of semiconductors which negatively impacted automotive production throughout the year, but especially in the second half of 2021,” ACEA said.
Automakers initially downplayed the impact of the chip shortage, but it eventually led them to slow production and even idle factories.
Car sales in the EU rebounded strongly in the second quarter, but for most of the second half fell by around 20%.
The short-term outlook for supply is not good.
“The start of 2022 will still be difficult in terms of chip supply,” Alexandre Marian of consulting firm AlixPartners told AFP.
“The situation should improve by the middle of the year, but that does not mean that other problems will not arise, relating to raw materials, supply chains and labor shortages,” he said. he declared.
The chip shortage is a consequence of the pandemic, as manufacturers have been disrupted by lockdowns and sick employees, as well as supply chain issues and increased global demand for electronics.
The pandemic has also pushed up the prices of many raw materials and caused labor shortages in some regions.
Germany stuck in reverse
While markets in France, Italy and Spain posted modest gains, a 10.1% decline in Germany led to a drop in the overall EU figure.
Germany is by far Europe’s biggest car market, accounting for a quarter of total sales to more than 2.6 million last year.
While the shortage of semiconductors was the main factor holding back a rebound, the EU also underperformed compared to other major markets where the post-pandemic recovery was stronger.
The Chinese automotive market grew by 4.4% and the American market by 3.7%.
The drop in European sales could also reflect “the sharp increase in the average price of cars as well as an expectant attitude of consumers towards electric vehicles which leads them to postpone their purchases and to keep their current vehicle longer. “said analysts at Inovev, an automotive data analytics company.
Renault makes a dent in sales
Europe’s three major automakers all saw sales declines in the bloc.
Volkswagen managed to retain the top spot, but a 4.8% drop in sales to 1.4 million vehicles caused its market share to drop to 25.1%.
Stellantis, which was born from the merger of the Italian group Fiat and the French Peugeot-Citroën, suffered a more modest decline of 2.1% to 2.1 million units, taking its market share to 21.9%.
The Renault group suffered a 10% drop, with sales of its eponymous brand falling 16%, while sales of its low-cost brand Dacia and sports brands Alpine increased.
The French automotive group saw its market share shrink to 10.6%.
Germany’s BMW managed a 1.5% increase in registrations, but Daimler, owner of the Mercedes and Smart brands, suffered a 12.4% drop.
Korea’s Hyundai Group, which includes both the Hyundai and Kia brands, consolidated its position as the EU’s fourth-largest automaker with an 18.4% gain to more than 828,000 vehicles. Its market share rose to 8.5%.
The data, which is provided by ACEA members, does not include sales of US electric vehicle maker Tesla.
The ACEA data also did not include a breakdown by petrol, diesel and electric vehicles, which are provided in a separate quarterly report.