European automotive sales fell over 20% on an annual basis in February. Like most other places, continued lockdowns and economic uncertainty across the continent took a toll on consumer spending. New car sales fell 20.3% in February year-over-year to just 850,170 vehicles in the European Union, Britain and the countries of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). It was the worst sales decline for vehicles in Europe since February 2013.

Broad Declines

Most European markets posted similar (or worse) declines. Sales in Spain dropped 38% from February 2020. Sales in France and Germany fell by 21% and 19% respectively. Meanwhile sales in Italy only reported a drop of 12%.

Shuttered showrooms, slow vaccination rates, and economic damage caused by the pandemic combined to hurt car sales in a big way in February 2021. Even worse, there’s no immediate rebound in sight. While vaccinations are ongoing, it will take months for the majority of the population to receive their shots. Some analysts say France’s Renault SA is the most at risk because of its high exposure to the European market. Renault reported a February sales decline of 29%.

Looking To China

Sales at Volkswagen and Stellantis dropped by 19% and 22% respectively. Luxury automakers also posted losses in February, with sales at BMW falling 13% and rival Daimler (Mercedes) reporting a 20% drop. Europe’s carmakers were counting on sales in China — which hasn’t reintroduced a COVID-19 lockdown — to boost 2021 sales. A rebound in the world’s largest automotive market would helped the industry recover quicker than expected in 2020. Can Chinese car sales do the same for 2021 numbers? The automakers certainly hope so.


Devon is a writer, editor, and veteran of the online publishing world. He has a particular love for classic muscle cars.