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Diesel sees lowest European new car market share since 2001

The European new car market remained stable during 2018, with alternatively fuelled vehicles seeing their best-every year while diesel registrations hit a low.

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The Netherlands outsold the UK when it came to EV registrations and became the fourth largest EV market, behind Germany and France

The figures from Jato Dynamics show 15.6 million vehicles were registered in Europe last year – just 346 more than in 2017 and marking the best result since 2007, when the market peaked with 16.02 million registrations. Strong results were seen in Q2, where the market was up by 4.8%, and Q3, where the market was up by 1.1%. These were enough to offset the large decline posted in Q4, where the market dropped by 7.5% and recorded its lowest volume since 2014 as a result of both Brexit and WLTP; by late November less than two in three versions available in Europe were homologated for the new emissions testing cycle.

Globally, Europe was the world’s third largest car market behind China and the US, as strong results in Spain, Poland and the Netherlands were offset by falls in the UK, Italy and Sweden.

Diesel registrations fell by 18% to 5.59 million and posted their lowest market share since 2001. Demand fell by double digits in 20 of the 27 markets included in Jato’s analysis, with the biggest drops in the UK (-30%), Scandinavia (-22%) and Benelux (-22%).

Commenting on diesel’s decline, Jato global analyst Felix Munoz said: “Throughout 2018 we continued to see the effects of the diesel crisis, as announcements of policy changes by governments led to confusion and panic among consumers.”

The majority of vehicles registered in 2018 were powered by petrol engines, with the fuel type making up 57% of all registrations. This result marks a 7-point market share increase on 2017 and a 12-point increase in 10 years, confirming that petrol vehicles continue to benefit from the demise of diesel; also shown by the SMMT new car registration figures for the UK for 2018.

Meanwhile, 2018 marked the best ever performance for alternatively fuelled vehicles, recording 944,800 registrations and a 6.1% market share. This is a huge increase in 10 years, having counted for just 0.5% of total registrations in 2008.

Notably, most of the fuel type’s growth was driven by pure electric vehicles, which outsold plug-in hybrid vehicles, as their volume increased by 47% from 132,800 vehicles in 2017 to 195,300 vehicles in 2018. Norway was the biggest market for electric vehicles, where they held a 31% market share, while the Netherlands outsold the UK and became the fourth largest EV market, behind Germany and France.

Despite growing at a slower rate than in previous years, the shift from traditional cars to SUVs continued in 2018. In total, 5.4 million SUVs were registered in Europe throughout the year, up 19% on 2017, as their market share increased from 29.2% to 34.6%. Demand for SUVs grew by 20% between 2016 and 2017, by 21% between 2015 and 2016, and by 24% between 2014 and 2015, and has more than doubled over the last four years.

SUV demand continued, with volume up by 19%, while traditional segments fell by 8%.

Among the car model  league table, the Volkswagen Golf maintained its position as Europe’s best-selling car, while the Toyota Yaris hit the top 10.

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for nearly 20 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day.