According to the latest figures from JATO Dynamics, the automotive data provider, March has proved to be a more difficult month for the European car market despite the strong start to the year.
Nasir Shah, global business development director at JATO, said: “It’s disappointing to see such a large percentage drop during March but it’s hardly surprising in view of the difficult economic climate that is prevailing in some of the core European markets.
"Additionally, the March market wasn’t helped by the early arrival of the Easter holiday and the corresponding reduction in available trading days."
Thanks to the relatively strong market in the first two months of the year, the year-to-date figures are more favourable, with the market down only 1.9% (81,238 units) on last year, to total year-to-date sales of 4,093,307 units.
Shah said: “In some respects the March figures are greater than they might otherwise have been thanks to the UK’s registration plate change during the month. This is a peak sales month in the UK and always has the effect of inflating the March figures in Europe.”
Volkswagen continues its dominance of the European market, heading the sales league in both March and year-to-date, ahead of Ford, Opel/Vauxhall, Renault and Peugeot.
With the market depressed, most brands suffered reduced sales volumes in March. However, those that recorded increased registrations compared to March 2007 have recorded significant increases, with Nissan up 38.1%, Mini up 21.8%, Dacia up 26.9%, Smart up 91.0%, Dodge up 57.9% and Maserati up 80%.
Year-to-date there are more success stories, including Fiat up 3.2%, BMW up 7.4%, Honda up 1.5%, Mazda up 6.8% and Kia up 4.8% .
The Peugeot 207 continues to perform well for the French car-maker and was Europe’s top-selling new car in March with 46,500 units registered, ahead of the Ford Fiesta (45,666 units), Volkswagen Golf (45,484 units), Opel/Vauxhall Corsa (45,459 units), Ford Focus (45,274 units), Opel/Vauxhall Astra (43,794 units), Renault Clio (39,123 units), Fiat Punto (32,890 units), BMW 3-Series (29,397 units) and Volkswagen Polo (29,356 units).
Year-to-date the Golf still clinches to the top spot (up 20.4% year-to-date), followed by the 207 (up 6.7% year-to-date), Corsa, Focus, Astra, Fiesta, Clio, Punto, Polo (up 1.0% year-to-date) and Toyota Yaris.
The European market in March is dominated by the UK registration plate change, but this year the 0.5% increase in UK registrations was not enough to offset the 14.3% fall in Germany, 18.6% fall in Italy and 28.1% fall in Spain. Many other markets also recorded significantly reduced car markets in March.