European auto sales last month jumped to a record high, fueled by an end-of-the-year buying frenzy ahead of tough new emission penalties for automakers and changes in consumer incentive programs.
Passenger-vehicle registrations rose 21 percent to 1.26 million, the European Automobile Manufacturers Association said yesterday.
The double-digit percentage gain was enough to push annual sales 1.2 percent higher to 15.8 million, reversing the previous year’s slight drop.
The “exceptional” growth last month was fueled by a 28 percent increase in registrations in France and a more than 50 percent rise in Sweden, where governments have changed emissions-based taxes on new vehicles for this year, the association said.
Sales more than doubled in the Netherlands ahead of an increase in the tax rate for electric company vehicles to 8 percent from 4 percent.
The latest European figures show how volatile the regulatory environment has become in the region and its effects on the industry, as governments push policies aimed at lowering carbon emissions.
This year ushered in stiff EU penalties for manufacturers on the sale of the most polluting models, while individual nations, including Germany, put in place subsidies toward the purchase of electric vehicles.
The big gain in registrations last month was also due to a low comparison base in 2018, when sales were crimped in the last months of the year by another set of rule changes on the way emissions were measured.
The modest growth in Europe came as China — the world’s biggest market — ended the year with a second consecutive annual decrease. A slowing economy and trade tariffs took their toll on the region.
Volkswagen AG’s global vehicle deliveries edged higher last year as the world’s largest automaker eked out a small gain in China, and improved its results in Europe and South America.
There were also bright spots in the premium market, with Porsche AG shrugging off widespread industry malaise to report record deliveries for last year and predicting that its first all-electric model, the Taycan, would foster further growth this year.
BMW AG, Volkswagen’s Audi and Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz also reported higher sales last year.
Overall, the global industry has eliminated tens of thousands of jobs, data compiled by Bloomberg News showed.
Opel, the German brand of PSA Group, on Tuesday said that it plans to cut as many as 4,100 positions.
The industry is focused on reducing costs after facing a slump in some regions at the same time it must make huge investments to develop electric and self-driving vehicles.
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