European car sales plunge as pandemic provokes crisis

European car sales plunged by nearly a quarter last year as the pandemic provoked the worst crisis ever to hit the capital-intensive industry.

New car registrations sank by 23.7%, or three million vehicles, to 9.9 million units, according to new figures released by the European Automobile Manufacturers Association.

It said lockdowns and other restrictions “had an unprecedented impact on car sales across Europe”.

All major markets recorded double-digit declines, down 32.3% in Spain, 28% in Italy and 25% in France.

A car makes its way on motorway 73 between Schleusingen and Eisfeld near Suhl, Germany (Matthias Schrader/AP)
A car makes its way on motorway 73 between Schleusingen and Eisfeld near Suhl, Germany (Matthias Schrader/AP)

Germany suffered a more contained 19% drop.

December sales were just 3.3% lower than the previous year, but performance varied drastically between markets.

Italy and Spain both had double-digit dips, Germany gained 10% while Spain was flat.

Germany’s Volkswagen shed 3% in market share, while gains were posted by PSA Peugeot and Fiat Chrysler, which on Monday officially launched as a new merged entity, as well as Toyota.