Market in Flux: Europe's Vehicle Landscape Is Changing Fast

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
market in flux europes vehicle landscape is changing fast

While North American conversations about the auto industry usually center around the public’s swing away from cars, Europe’s doing all sorts of of swinging these days. There’s a battle raging between cars and light trucks, sure, but also between propulsion types.

Once dominated by diesel, Europeans are shedding oil burners in favor of cars powered by gasoline and electricity. What’s hot these days? Not cars, but crossovers sure are. Jeep deserves recognition for its market share gains. And EVs? Buyers picked up 47 percent more of those last year.

In its breakdown of European auto trends in 2018, JATO Dynamics looked at which brands collected market share at a faster clip than the rest. Top of the heap was Jeep, now firmly ensconced in Italy. The plucky, go-anywhere brand grew 56 percent in 2018, pushing its European market share from 0.69 percent in 2017 to 1.07 percent last year.

Jeep has the popular Compass to thank for the growth, and it’s no wonder the brand wants a Fiat-based “baby Jeep” to plumb the low end of the market. The Compass sold 75,000 units in Europe in 2018. Compared to more well-known brands in the region, Jeep outsold both Land Rover and Honda last year.

While the number two through four spots aren’t brands we see here, their biggest sales drivers would look familiar to Americans — as they’re all crossovers. Even the company with the fifth-strongest market share growth, Volkswagen, can thank the compact T-Roc crossover (143,000 units in 2018) for its market share of 11.2 percent. Sales of the brand’s utility vehicles rose 61 percent last year, accounting for 24 percent of new VW registrations.

The introduction of the Eclipse Cross and continued popularity of the Outlander saw Mitsubishi rise to its highest European sales since 2007. Meanwhile, Hyundai saw a record year, with sales of its new Kona subcompact crossover (67,300 units sold in 2018) pushing it over the top.

Indeed, a list of the models with the fastest growing market share, when places beside a list of those with the fastest dropping share, it’s clear where European buying preferences lie. The fastest-growing side is entirely crossovers. All 10 of them. The fastest-falling side? All cars, among them the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Kia Rio, and VW Golf. You won’t recognize this continent after the crossovers are done with it.

Looking at the broader picture, it’s clear the damage done by dieselgate continues to be felt. With the fuel going from hero to zero in the wake of the scandal, lawmakers pulled U-turns. Now, cities want to rid their streets of the oil-burning bastards — by draconian measures, if necessary.

Sales of diesel vehicles in Europe fell 18 percent in 2018, with the fuel’s take of the market shrinking to 36 percent. Just a few years ago, it enjoyed a majority share. Gasoline-powered cars now take up 57 percent of new buys. As for EVs, they’re on the upswing, with growth of 47 percent in 2018 — better growth, it should be noted , than hybrids (up 24 percent) and plug-in hybrids (up 22 percent).

In total, the green trifecta amounted to 6.1 percent of all vehicles sold on the Continent last year.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

Join the conversation
4 of 13 comments
  • Lorenzo Lorenzo on Feb 07, 2019

    Germany dominates the auto market, and VW expects to dominate the battery-electric market. Unfortunately, Germany also plans to shut down its coal-fired electricity generating plants that produce two thirds of their electricity, expecting wind and solar to make up the difference. If I were a European, I'd keep a gasoline powered car for the coming time when the stucco hits the fan.

    • See 1 previous
    • Highdesertcat Highdesertcat on Feb 09, 2019

      @HotPotato "I don’t know how you get to net-zero carbon without nuclear." I agree! You'd need Hydro, GeoThermal, Wind, Solar and Wave in any combination to make an attempt to get there, but nuclear is the most dependable backstop, once fossil has been outlawed by AOC and her followers.

  • Carrera Carrera on Feb 07, 2019

    Yes, during my last trip to Europe in October I've noticed that diesel fuel price is on par with gasoline. Periferal EU countries still enjoy very strong diesel sales. First of all, they don't have big budgets to encourage hybrid or electric car sales, however I did notice very few RAV4 hybrids and even a Lexus 450h. This was in a decent size town of 250,000 people. The used car imports from the core EU countries to the outskirts is still diesel. In the core EU countries, diesel is slowly dying no doubt.

  • ToolGuy VW (marque not group) and Tesla very nearly switched positions on a YTD basis.
  • RHD Inexpensive gasoline appears to be a thing of the past. ILO is correct - we have enough sunlight, wind and emerging ocean wave energy to power the entire country and then some. Clean air is nice, and being free of the whims of OPEC, geopolitics and hugely profitable oil companies will do all of us a world of good.
  • Raymond Segura Can you tell me where I can get the rear bumper for 69 impala?
  • Art Vandelay some of the crazy numbers I get. Percentages look bigger with any fluctuations with low volume makes and brands leaving the market will see massive month over month changes. But what’s with Buick? I still see the occasional ad on TV and yet the drop is disproportionate even compared to all the other GM brands.
  • Master Baiter "There is no mandate for consumers to buy EVs, not in any country or state. That’s made up."Right. And you are not mandated to purchase a toilet that only uses 1.6 gallons/flush. You could choose to not have a toilet--just go in the woods, like the bears do.