"Uncertainty" was the watchword for European sales going into 2019, and that will again be the case in 2020, executives and analysts say.
Last year, caution centered on Brexit, tariffs and the lingering effects of the Worldwide harmonized Light vehicle Testing Procedure (WLTP).
None of those factors have completely disappeared, but the big unknown is how buyers will react to a wave of electrified vehicles needed to meet new EU emissions rules.
"I think that 2020 will be a very interesting year, because we will see if the consumers are ready to buy [electric vehicles], if the infrastructure that's needed is in place, if the different use cases are working," Faurecia CEO Patrick Koller said. "We will see."
Peugeot CEO Jean-Philippe Imparato warned of turbulence at the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020, as automakers go from average fleet CO2 emissions of about 120 gram per kilometer at the start of 2019 to 95g/km, the new EU standard, on Jan. 1. To count as a 2019 sale, cars had to have been registered before that date.
Overall sales will be "stable" in 2020, Imparato told Automotive News Europe, but he expects there to be a "seasonal effect" on first-quarter demand because of the tougher emissions regulations.
"I'm not sure all the automakers are ready for them," he said of the new targets, which will apply to 95 percent of all vehicles sold in 2020 and 100 percent of those sold next year. "If you are not ready now in terms of product, production and stock management, you will be dead in January."