Between the health crisis and shortages of electronic chips, European car sales have experienced an unprecedented drop in 2021. Only 9.7 million new vehicles were sold in the European Union during this year, manufacturers report this Tuesday.

This is the lowest figure recorded since the start of the statistical series in 1990. Even lower than in 2013 and 1993, dark years for the automotive industry.

With a sixth consecutive month of decline in December, sales even fell by 2.4% in Europe compared to the year 2020, paralyzed by the Covid.

“This fall is the consequence of the shortage of semiconductors which has slowed down automobile production throughout the year, and more particularly in the second half of the year”, explained in a press release the association of European manufacturers (ACEA).

Microchip shortages and logistical issues

Germany, Europe's largest market, recorded one of the biggest declines with a plunge of 10.1% over one year and 2.6 million vehicles sold.

The German automotive sector, which had experienced a sustained recovery in early 2021, quickly faced bottlenecks in global markets.

Shortages of microchips, essential for car assembly, and logistical problems have dampened hopes of a lasting recovery.

Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark also show sharp declines.

France remained stable (+0.5%) but at its lowest, with 1.66 million units sold in 2021, i.e. a level close to 1975. Spain, which had been one of the hardest hit countries in 2020, remains at its lowest (+1%).

Italy, also hard hit in 2020, posted a slight recovery in 2021 (+5.5%).

Fall for Renault, rebound for Hyundai-Kia

The leading manufacturers of the market are feeling the blow: the No. 1 Volkswagen fell by 4.8% with 2.4 million cars sold.

The group's main brand fell by 6.7%, Skoda by 9.8% and Audi by 3.3%, while Porsche and Seat rebounded.

Stellantis fell by 2.1% over one year with 2.1 million units sold: the group limited the decline on its main brands Peugeot, Fiat and Citroën, and recorded good sales at Jeep.

The Renault group fell by 10.2% despite the good scores of its economy brand Dacia.

Now firmly established at the foot of the podium, Hyundai-Kia is doing well (+18.4%) thanks to its range of electric and hybrid cars, especially SUVs.

Toyota also jumped 9.1%.

ACEA does not count Tesla sales.

As for German premiums, BMW remained stable (+1.5%) while Daimler fell (-12.4%), strongly hampered by the shortage of chips.

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