Europe Car Sales Jump 21% as EVs Help Extend Growth Streak

(Bloomberg) — Auto sales climbed for the 13th consecutive month in Europe, with electric vehicles driving growth before becoming the latest focal point of global trade tensions.

(Bloomberg) — Auto sales climbed for the 13th consecutive month in Europe, with electric vehicles driving growth before becoming the latest focal point of global trade tensions.

New-car registrations rose 21% to 904,509 units in August, the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association said Wednesday. Sales of EVs doubled ahead of the European Commission opening an anti-subsidy investigation into Chinese electric cars this month.

The data released by Europe’s auto trade group provides a limited window into the dynamics that precipitated the probe. The association doesn’t break down regional sales by country of origin or detail each manufacturer’s registrations by powertrain. But the strong demand for EVs — which exceeded 20% of EU sales for the first time — speaks to why Chinese companies are increasingly keen to establish a foothold in the market.

Even so, demand has yet to recover to pre-pandemic levels with EV demand still dependent on state subsidies, Ernst & Young said in an analysis. 

“The market still can’t stand on its own legs,” E&Y said.

Read more: VW Lays Off Workers at Key EV Factory Over Cratering Demand

Automakers led by Volkswagen AG and Stellantis NV continue to benefit from orders that stacked up during a prolonged shortages of parts stemming from pandemic disruptions. That momentum will be tested by central banks raising the cost of borrowing to tame inflation.

Demand exceeding supply “could reverse in the second half as vehicle production normalizes and orders soften,” Bloomberg Intelligence analysts Gillian Davis and Michael Dean said in a note published this week. Sales are still down roughly a quarter from pre-pandemic levels.

Tesla Inc. — which imports Model 3s from its Shanghai plant — has repeatedly cut prices this year, while Chinese companies including BYD Co. and Nio Inc. are pushing into Europe.

Even so, executives including Mercedes-Benz Group AG Chief Executive Officer Ola Källenius have spoken out in favor of open trade. The European Commission’s China probe opens the door to potential retaliation by Beijing that could hit the bloc’s carmakers hard and risk slowing EV adoption.

For now, demand for battery-powered cars continues to climb. The number of new EVs registered across Europe soared 102% in August to just shy of 197,000 cars.

Buyers in Germany registered almost 87,000 fully electric vehicles in August, a 171% increase. France, which is in the process of redesigning its EV subsidies to bolster sales of locally made models, ranked a distant second, with 19,700 EVs sold. In the UK, registrations jumped 72% to just over 17,000 vehicles.

Volkswagen sold the most passenger cars in the region across all fuel types, with around 240,500 registrations, up 21% from a year ago. The automaker is also leading in fully electric cars, according to BloombergNEF, although job cuts at its main EV factory in Germany suggest it’s bracing for slowing demand.

Stellantis, which is among the automakers dealing with a strike by the United Auto Workers union in the US, increased sales by 6.3% to around 145,400 vehicles last month.

–With assistance from Craig Trudell.

(Updates with E&Y comment in fourth, fifth paragraphs.)

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