MILAN — Higher demand from private customers and short-term rental companies helped to boost Italy's new-car sales by 2 percent in December.
Registrations were 124,078, according to Italy's Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport. The month had one more working day than December 2017.
Private customer demand rose by 10 percent, the second consecutive monthly increase after an increased by 5.2 percent in November, according to market researcher Dataforce,
Registrations by short-term rental companies jumped 62 percent, while sales to long-term rental businesses fell 12 percent and sales to companies declined by 5 percent. Self-registrations by dealers and automakers fell 15 percent and 78 percent, respectively.
Market leader Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' registrations dropped slightly, by just 1.1 percent, as higher Jeep volume offset a poor month for Alfa Romeo, Fiat and Maserati. Fiat sales were down 14 percent and Alfa Romeo registrations fell 33 percent while Maserati sales dropped by 6.6 percent. Jeep sales jumped 60 percent and Lancia gained 39 percent.
Volkswagen Group's brands except Seat had a good month. VW brand registrations rose 23 percent as key models became fully available following disruption resulting from delayed certification under the EU's new Worldwide harmonized Light vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP). Audi sales rose by 54 percent, Porsche gained 16 percent and Skoda's volume increased 10 percent. Seat sales fell 15 percent.
Among PSA Group brands, Opel gained 46 percent, Citroen sales increased 5.1 percent and Peugeot sales rose 1.2 percent.
Renault brand registrations increased 4 percent, boosted by sales of the Clio hatchback. Last year the Clio was the most popular car in the small-car segment, which accounts for more than one third of Italy's registrations. Dacia sales jumped 31 percent, helped by high demand for the Sandero small car.
Ford deliveries were down 6 percent.
All the big Asian brands had lower sales. Nissan's registrations plunged by 29 percent, Hyundai registrations fell 26 percent and Kia's volume dropped by 24 percent. Toyota sales declined by 2.8 percent.
Except Audi, German premium brands had a bad month, with BMW's volume down 20 percent and Mercedes-Benz sales down 4.6 percent.
Sales of gasoline cars rebounded, with sales increasing 40 percent for a 41.5 percent market share, up from 29.7 percent in December 2017, according to importers association UNRAE. Sales of diesel cars dropped by 19 percent. Diesel’s market share was 46.4 percent, down from 57.4 percent in December 2017.
Among non-traditional powertrains, plug-in hybrid sales were hit hard after many automakers halted sales because WLTP gave them higher CO2 emissions ratings, hitting tax benefits. Sales of plug-in hybrids fell 29 percent for a 0.1 market share from 0.2 percent. Sales of full-electric vehicles increased 93 percent for a 0.3 percent share.
Full-year car sales fell for first time in 5 years, down 3.1 percent to 1.91 million.
The full-year diesel market share was 51.5 percent, down from the 56.7 percent share in 2017. Gasoline car's share rose to 35.3 percent from 31.6 percent. LPG share was stable at 6.5 percent, while CNG vehicles' share increased to 1.9 percent from 1.6 percent.
Plug-in hybrids' share fell to 0.2 percent from 3.4 percent in 2017. The share of full hybrids rose to 4.3 percent from 3.4 percent.
More than 5,000 new full-electric cars were sold last year, up from 2,000 in 2017, boosting share to 0.3 percent from 0.1 percent.
Dataforce forecasts a slight recovery of the overall market in 2019 to 1.92 million while UNRAE expects sales to be lower in 2019 than in 2018 due to the additional tax on gas-guzzlers approved in December, and an uncertain economic and political climate.
Dataforce's Italy chief, Salvatore Saladino, said the 2 million mark, which the industry hoped would be reached in 2018, "should be forgotten in the short term."