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Economy in Brief

European Car Registrations Rise by 1.1% in September
by Robert Brusca  October 15, 2021

European new car registrations gained 1.1% in September, after dropping off for two consecutive months and logging declines in four of the five previous months.

Registrations are falling over 12 months, six months, and three months. The same is true of calculations from the three-month moving average of registrations.

In addition, if we look at Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom, new registrations are falling in each of those countries over each horizon (three-months, six-months, and 12-months) – the only minor exception is the 0% change for Spain over six months.

Looking closely at the individual countries by month, in the fifteen most recent months (five countries, the recent three months for each) registrations are lower month-to-month in 12 of them. Twelve declines in the most recent 15-months signal broad-based and up-to-date weakness. As an exception of sorts, September shows month-to-month increases in registrations in Germany and Spain. But for Germany, that is the only increase in three months and the second monthly rise in the last six months. Spain, on the other hand, has had five monthly declines in registrations in a row. So as exceptions go, Spain and Germany are not very impressive- at least not yet.

Calculating the changes in registrations by comparing the current level of registrations to their pre-Covid levels, registrations are lower by 20% or more in each of these markets. In Spain registrations are lower by 43.1% from their January 2020 level.

Registrations still in a downtrend

This small table provides an alternate assessment using two different techniques to evaluate registrations. The top part of the table looks at the number of registrations overall as well as in individual markets. These are ranked on two horizons: one back to 2008 and the other back to 1995. On both timelines, the queue rankings are in their bottom five queue-percentiles. Only the U.K. is an exception to that and that is because its registrations are 'only' in their lower 25th and 42nd percentiles on the two timelines, respectively. The second ranking technique applies to rankings on overall growth rates for registrations on the same two timelines. These overall rankings also rank in the lower five percentile of their historic range of values among 12-month growth rates. Any way you slice it, there is weakness.

On balance, new car registrations in Europe continue to show a limping economy. With the virus winding down (we hope this trend continues), the future may still be much brighter than the trends appear to show. But we have known this for the past 18 months: that past trends are no guarantee of future performance if the virus is active. That is the best news for Europe. That this report exists in the rearview mirror and the future could be much better is where hope lies not in the view that this report is any evidence of a revival.

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