Europe’s automotive industry continues to show no signs of recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic dealt out another challenging year. Last year, combined new car registrations in Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Italy and Spain, were at the lowest level since 1985.

According to JATO data, EU5 countries registered 8,275,153 units in 2021 – accounting for approximately three quarters of the European total. The marks a worse year than 2020, which saw 8,474,491 vehicles registered – 2021 also saw 2.4% less than 2020, and 27% less when compared to pre-pandemic levels. 1985 marks the last time these markets saw less than 9 million units registered, when volume totaled 8,233,721.

When looking at the performance of individual markets, total sales did increase in France, the UK and Italy, when compared with 2020. This, however, was not enough to offset the current challenges faced by the German market, which also recorded its worst results since 1985.

Volkswagen down by 10% in Germany

The decline in new vehicle registrations felt by the German market last year, is largely owed to the difficulties faced by Volkswagen Group. While the country’s largest manufacturer tried to push its electric offer through a number of launches, demand for EVs was not enough to offset decreasing consumer interest in traditional segments.

The ongoing semiconductor crisis has meant that production of vehicles like the Golf (historically Germany’s best-selling car) had to be halted for weeks at a time. And sales were further harmed by internal competition from Volkswagen’s increasingly popular SUV line-up.

Although it continues to be a favorite among German consumers, the Golf’s popularity has waned in recent years. In 2001, it represented 8.2% of all German new car registrations. Ten years later, as consumer interest in SUVs began to pick up, the Golf’s market share fell to 6.1%. And, since the introduction of the Volkswagen T-Roc in 2017, it has fallen from 5.0% in 2018, to 3.5% in 2021.

In 2021, sales of the Golf plummeted to the lowest level since 1980, while the market share of the T-Roc jumped from 1.63% in 2019, to 2.19% last year. The ID.3 made up 1.02% of the market in 2021.

Hyundai, Toyota and Tesla win big amid the turbulence

Korea’s Hyundai-Kia, Japan’s Toyota, and the US manufacturer Tesla were the three biggest winners in these 5 markets between 2019 and last year.

Hyundai-Kia’s market share increased by 1.5 points between 2019 and 2021, from 6.02% to 7.56%. This is the highest market share gain among all OEMs selling cars in these 5 markets. The main reason underlying the uptick in sales has been the positive reception of its electrified products among consumers.

The Kia Niro (initially launched in 2016), Hyundai Kona, and the 4th generation Hyundai Tucson have shaken the market thanks to the wide range of models available to consumers, including mild-hybrid, pure hybrid, plug-in hybrid and pure electric. Evidentally, they’re playing in the right segment (electrified) with the right products (SUVs).

Toyota also increased its market share from 4.36% in 2019, to 5.44% in 2021 thanks to the success of the 4th generation Yaris. Over the same period, Tesla has continued to gain market share, outselling 12 competitors including several global automotive giants. Last year, Tesla registered more vehicles in Europe’s big-5 than brands like Jeep and Mazda.


Stay tuned for more insights in the coming days.