• Small and compact SUVs were the only segments to post double-digit growth
  • VW Group and PSA drove the growth in these segments, outselling Renault-Nissan
  • Registrations of pure electric cars (BEV) soared by 85%, but still only counted for a marginal piece of the market

The European car market remained stable in May 2019 for the second month in a row. In total, 1.44 million vehicles were registered – a 0.2% increase on May 2018. The stable results from April and May signify an end to the market’s extended period of decline between September 2018 and March 2019. However, year-to-date figures show 6.91 million vehicles have been registered so far in 2019 – a decline of 2% on the same period last year.

Despite the market’s slowdown this year, last month was the highest volume registered in the month of May since 2007, when registrations also totalled 1.44 million units. Explaining the results, Felipe Munoz, JATO’s global analyst, said: “The market had a welcoming response to the latest vehicle launches in May. Moving forward, there’s still a long way to go until we see real progress with EVs, which means SUVs will continue to be the best hope for carmakers selling cars in Europe.”

SUVs once again drove market growth in May, offsetting the drops posted by the traditional segments. While demand for subcompact, compact, midsize and executive/luxury cars and MPVs fell during the month, demand for SUVs was up by 10% to 534,700 units. SUVs continued to dominate the European market, as they counted for 37.2% of total registrations and posted a market share increase of 3.2 percentage points on the same time last year. Year-to-date figures show 2.56 million SUVs have been registered so far in 2019 in Europe – an increase of 8%.

SUVs’ growth came from the strong results posted by small and compact SUVs, which when combined counted for 81% of the segment’s total registrations. This was largely due to the good reception for the latest small SUV arrivals to the market, such as the Volkswagen T-Roc and T-Cross, Hyundai Kona and the new Dacia Duster, which led to a volume increase of 13% to 209,600 registrations. This is a remarkable increase over the last 10 years, considering there were only 125,000 small SUV registrations across the whole of 2009. Meanwhile, demand for compact SUVs grew by 10% to 225,900 units, led by the Volkswagen Tiguan, Peugeot 3008 and Nissan Qashqai.

“While consumers continue to lose interest in traditional hatchbacks, and carmakers remain reluctant to bring new additions to those segments, small and compact SUVs are the most desirable alternatives. Although they are slightly more expensive, they feature cooler designs and offer more comfort and a high-seating position. Not to mention that the offer is continuously updated with the latest arrivals to the market,” explains Munoz.

When including all subsegments (small, compact, midsize and large), Volkswagen Group was the clear leader in the SUV segment. In May, the German maker recorded 123,100 SUV registrations, up by 29%. PSA came second with 93,100 registrations, up 12%. Meanwhile, Renault-Nissan posted a decline in the segment, as volume dropped by 5% to 83,300 registrations. By models, the Dacia Duster led the SUV rankings, followed by the Volkswagen Tiguan and T-Roc.

While SUVs continue to rule the market, electrified cars still make up a very small portion. Registrations of pure electric, plug-in hybrid and hybrid cars totalled 94,000 units in 18 European markets in May, counting for 7.1% of the total volume. The majority of registrations came from hybrid vehicles, but the growth was driven by pure electric cars, where registrations jumped from 12,300 units in May 2018 to 22,300 last month.

The Renault Zoe was the top-selling electric car last month, but the Tesla Model 3 continues to lead the year-to-date rankings. However, registrations for the Model 3 fell from 15,755 in March to 3,659 in April, and 2,820 in May. “A large part of Tesla’s global plans depend on how the brand can maintain the sales growth of the Model 3. The sedan needs to continue to grab the attention of consumers in Europe, as US demand has almost peaked already. The initial good start we saw in March has somewhat dissipated in April and May,” explains Munoz.

Meanwhile, May marked an improved performance of the Dacia Duster, Volkswagen T-Roc, Mercedes A-Class, Toyota Rav4 and Corolla, Audi Q3, BMW 1-Series, Opel Grandland, Hyundai Kona and Audi A6.

Among the market’s latest launches, the following totals were registered: 425 units of the Volkswagen T-Cross; 7,940 units of Citroen C5 Aircross; 4,405 units of the Peugeot Rifter; 3,592 units of the Peugeot 508; 3,349 units of the Seat Tarraco; 2,820 units of the Tesla Model 3; 2,647 units of the Skoda Scala; 2,323 units of the Lexus UX; 2,100 units of the Volkswagen Touareg; and 1,915 units of the Opel Combo.