In Europe, car sales at their lowest

It looks like a small dip, it’s actually a free fall. Car sales in Europe hit a historic low again in 2021, the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) reported on Tuesday January 18: 11.77 million new passenger cars were registered in 2021 in the wider Europe (the 26 countries of the European Union [UE] and the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland).

This level represents a decrease of 1.5% compared to 2020 (− 2.4% for the EU alone), but it is a considerable decline compared to the 15 million cars sold more or less each year in Europe, during a decade, before the pandemic crisis of 2020. And we have to go back thirty-five years – to 1986 precisely – to find data lower than current levels, according to statistics from Inovev, an information and specialized automotive analysis.

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For France alone, the trend is equivalent. With 1.66 million new cars sold – i.e. + 0.5% compared to the previous year – the level of 2021, like that of 2020, corresponds to the market of… 1975, down 25% compared to 2019. In other words, 500,000 car sales evaporated in 2021 in France compared to a normal year. If the hole in 2020 was due to a total shutdown of production and distribution of vehicles in the spring due to global confinement, the main cause of the lack of recovery in 2021 is the great difficulty in the supply of computer chips which started at the end of 2020, peaked in the fall and continues today.

Electric overtakes diesel

“This fall is the consequence of the shortage of semiconductors, which slowed down automotive production throughout the year, and more particularly in the second half of the year”, explained the ACEA in a press release accompanying the publication of the registrations. Globally, experts estimated this fall that around 8 million vehicles would ultimately not be manufactured in 2021 due to the shortage, i.e. around 10% of global production. By extrapolating this data to Europe, we arrive at a shortfall in production of 1.5 million cars on the Old Continent.

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All manufacturers have been affected in their supplies, but some have managed the crisis better than others, which is reflected in real rebounds in their sales. This is the case of the South Korean group Hyundai-Kia, which posted an insolent + 21%, and Toyota (+ 10%). Some, on the other hand, took the full brunt of the crisis, such as Ford (−19%), Nissan (−14%) or Daimler (−11%). The Renault group, which is down 11%, recently explained that the shortage had prevented it from producing 500,000 cars in 2021.

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