Editors Note: A large portion of the aforementioned data in this feature was compiled courtesy of Dataforce. Automotive Fleet aggregated data that was provided over a several month period.
Several European fleet markets saw their registration numbers return to form in 2019 after experiencing notable dips and fluctuation since the implementation of the Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) deadline that was initiated in the second half of 2018.
The European Union Five (EU-5), which is comprised of France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom, experienced this.
The WLTP, which was introduced on Sept. 1, 2018, is a required measurement of fuel consumption and CO2 emissions from passenger cars and light commercial vehicles, as well as their pollutant emissions.
It required manufacturers to ensure vehicles met with WLTP standards before they could legally be sold in Europe. This led to a spike in fleet vehicle registrations leading up to the deadline.
After dips following its implementation, most fleet markets have seen improvements for some of 2019, though there are a few exceptions.
Europe Fleet Markets
According to recent data, the true fleet market in Spain saw a 1% growth in May 2019, continuing off the strength of the previous month which countered declines seen earlier in the year.
True fleet registrations in the country have been up, coming off the back of April’s 11.6% growth, according to Dataforce. This contrasted with earlier in March when the true fleet market in Spain was down 4.7%, despite later growth.
The improvements are promising considering Spain went from a 42.4% registration growth for true fleets just before the introduction of the WLTP (which was the highest ever achieved for the fleet channel in Spain) and was shortly followed by true fleet registrations being in the negative: in October 2018, fleet registrations were down 7.7%.
Meanwhile, the true fleet market in France saw significant growth in May 2019, growing by 17.8%, and increased 8.5% year to date, as of publishing, according to Dataforce.
The growth in France was the highest seen in the country since October 2017, aside from the strong numbers of August 2018 that were influenced by the WLTP deadline.
Speaking of the WLTP, in similar fashion to Spain and other countries, the fleet registration market posted a 28.9% growth in August 2018, but saw declines shortly after for the month of October.
Despite declines into October, there are consistencies to the markets between now and late last year that reflect consistent trends. For example, in May 2019, Peugeot was the leading automaker in the fleet market for registrations, and was also leading the market in the later half of 2018. Shortly after the WLTP, four out of the top five fleet vehicles were also from French automotive manufacturer Peugeot.
Fleet registrations in Italy were up 2.5% for the month of July following three strong months of growth, and reached a 2.7% year to date in July 2019. The country is also continuing its upswing on fleet registrations following a dip from the introduction of the WLTP.
Earlier this year and in late 2018, registrations in Italy had experienced months of declines, but things have turned around since April.
In September 2018, fleet registrations were down by 34.1%, as were registrations in the total vehicle market in the country, which saw a 23.4% dip in the passenger car market.
In the German fleet market, commercial fleet registrations grew by 14.9% in July, which also happened to help the new passenger car total market achieve its best month since 2009.
With almost 333,000 passenger cars registered in July 2019, the total number of new registrations for the month was higher than in any other July since 2009, bolstered in part by true fleet registrations, according to Dataforce. It’s also conceivable that some fleet managers have made additional purchases in order to avoid possible delivery bottlenecks for autumn 2019, according to Dataforce.
The German light commercial vehicle market grew by 11.7%, year to date, in June 2019.
Registration volumes for the top 10 automotive brands were also up from the same time last year for the light commercial vehicle market, except for Renault. Notable increases included Ford in third place, which saw a 20.8% increase and Iveco in ninth place, which grew by 36%, according to Dataforce.
Recent data also found Roughly 67% of all BMW fleet cars are leased in Germany, and 57% of fleets are using leasing for the acquisition of new passenger cars.
Following BMW, with regards to percentage of vehicles being leased, was Audi in second 66% and SEAT at 65%, according to a study from Dataforce that analyzed data from 2013 to 2018. Meanwhile, the leasing rates for the 10 most popular fleet models range from 50% for the Opel Astra to 70% for the Audi A4.
Recent data of the Germen fleet market also highlighted the extended needs of leasing customers from the use of alternative mobility concepts in fleets including pool vehicles, trains, and company bikes, according to Dataforce. Considering larger fleet operators with at least 50 vehicles, 37.9% already offer such solutions to their employees while 35.9% expect them to be used more frequently in the future. The main reasons behind this are fleet managers’ need for more flexibility and environmental aspects.
Meanwhile, 93.3% of fleet managers are not interested in e-scooters, while 57.3% of company car drivers would like to use them.
Despite other successes, some markets have seen declines in fleet registrations.
Fleet registrations in the United Kingdom were down 6.2% for the first half of 2019, when compared to the same time frame last year, and the second quarter of the year finished without a positive month.
True fleets in the country also reported a 7.2% drop for the month of June alone, according to a report from Dataforce. Despite the declines, some of the top OEMs in the market thrived in the adverse conditions, including Volkswagen, which retained the No. 1 spot. This was followed by Ford in second place.
The monthly declines continued in the market for the last few months of 2018. Registrations in the United Kingdom true fleet market saw a 6.1% drop for the month of October 2018, which continued a slide that was driven heavily by the impact of the WLTP. There was also a 1.1% dip on December 2018.
Looking specifically at recent new van registrations for fleets, the United Kingdom market saw a 23.5% decline, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
Roughly, 41,216 light commercial vehicles were registered in the month of September, down some 12,632 units from the same time last year, as regulatory changes, coupled with economic and political uncertainty, impacted the market.
The fleet market in Switzerland finally experienced a month of growth after consecutive declines reported since January of this year, following dips also seen in 2018.
The true fleet market grew by a whopping 24.6% year-on-year with an increase of more than 1,000 registrations.
Before this, fleet registrations were down 9.9% in August, while the total car market also saw a decline of 9.1%.
In September, within the ranking of the top 15 importer brands, four brands more than doubled their registration figures from the previous year, these were Opel (249.6 %), Citroen (176.6 %), Tesla (125.9 %) and Porsche (112.2%).
Top ranking models were, led by Skoda Octavia, then the Crossland X at No. 2, and the Citroen C3 model in third.
Other data from Dataforce found, passenger cars in the European fleet market are expected to blossom over the next five years, despite potential declines for the segment in the United Kingdom as the result of Brexit.
Company cars make up almost a quarter (24.2% in 2018) of all passenger car sales in the EU-5 markets, according to Dataforce.
However, following the Brexit vote, the annual volume of Europe’s largest true fleet market, from 2017, is expected to shrink by 160,000 new registrations when comparing 2020 to the 2016 peak. To put this figure into context: 160,000 new registrations are almost the equivalent of the Dutch true fleet market.
The automotive brands that are expected to see the largest growth, absolute volume wise, in the true fleet market in 2020 are BMW, Peugeot, and Land Rover, according to predictions from Dataforce. Conversely, SEAT, Citroen, and Opel/Vauxhall are expected to suffer larger declines.
In terms of percentage growth, further brands are expected to expand their European fleet business, like Nissan, DS, Mazda and Lexus.