Europe Auto Sales Resume Steep Decline in January After Reprieve

Passenger-car sales in Europe’s five biggest markets tumbled by more than a quarter last month after lockdowns to combat the pandemic shuttered dealerships and consumers shied away from large purchases.

Registrations fell 28% across Germany, the U.K., France, Italy and Spain in January from the year-earlier period, according to Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Michael Dean. With lockdowns still in effect in several countries and carmakers grappling with a shortage of semiconductors, Dean said he sees February sales dropping 10%.

“The European auto-sales outlook for the first half remains uncertain,” Dean said in a note, adding that expectations for a near-doubling in operating profit across the region’s carmakers this year look increasingly doubtful.

Europe Auto Sales Resume Steep Decline in January After Reprieve

The drop last month follows a much smaller decline in December, when carmakers pushed sales of battery-powered vehicles to meet more stringent emissions targets for 2020.

The year-end respite and China’s recovery helped carmakers including Volkswagen AG and BMW AG post better-than-expected preliminary earnings for the fourth quarter. Still, overall car sales plunged the most on record in Europe last year as relatively resilient demand in the second half did only so much to make up for the collapse during the initial outbreak of Covid-19.

The European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association is scheduled to report more detailed January data on Wednesday.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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