Charity anthem We Are The World was the Number One hit song the last time Western Europeans bought less than 11 million passenger cars and SUVs.
For the first time since 1985, the pandemic-struck continent’s sales fell as low as 10.8 million in 2020, according to Schmidt Automotive Research.
The company, which monitors 18 markets in Europe, claimed the size of the European auto market shrank 24.5 percent compared to 2019, with very few standout successes.
Besides the effects of Covid-19 lockdowns for up to six months in some countries, European auto sales were also battered by the Brexit confusion throughout the United Kingdom.
In countries like Italy, selling cars was actually banned for at least four months in 2020 unless the new vehicles were replacing crashed cars or were for essential workers.
There were also automakers playing games to meet their EU-mandated CO2 fleet averages without losing more money than they needed to.
In some cases, this saw automakers holding back or even cancelling production of less profitable models or specifications, in favour of maximizing profits to offset their plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and electric (EV) cars.
The lower sales meant struggling automakers could more easily meet their CO2 requirements (the fleet average across the board was 95 grams/km), with Daimler, BMW, PSA, Volvo and Renault confirming they’d limboed beneath the barrier.
Volkswagen admitted it just missed the target (the cost of which would be €95 per gram x each car sold) and Jaguar Land Rover also missed. Ford teamed swam in Volvo’s emissions “pool” to make their target, while Fiat Chrysler Automobiles did the same with Tesla.
It was an extraordinary performance from Daimler, in particular, which was nine grams over its target at the end of Q2. Its electrification strategy surged in the second half of 2020, selling 30,000 electric smart city cars and 160,000 PHEVs and EQC EVs.
Fully a quarter of December’s auto deliveries in Europe were plug-ins (PHEV and EV combined), leading to half a million plug-in sales in Q4. Of that half a million, Schmidt Automotive Research insisted, 55 percent were EVs.