Sales to businesses limited the decline in the Spanish new-car market in December. Registrations fell 3.5 percent to 99,291 units, according to the industry association ANFAC. There was one fewer working day than in December 2017.
The December drop was the market's fourth consecutive monthly decline after registrations fell 13 percent in November, 6.6 percent in October and 17 percent in September.
Company car sales and sales to rental businesses increased in December -- by 6.9 percent and 2.6 percent respectively, but private customer demand was weak, with an 11 percent drop.
The fall in sales to private customers and positive results for other channels could indicate a "shift of sales from private customers to long term rentals," said importer association ANIACAM. Although private sales are the most profitable for dealers, the shift would not be all bad news because it would also bring "higher medium-term sales," an ANIACAM spokesman said.
Dealer association FACONAUTO said the drop in private demand was because of low consumer confidence and the possibility of an economic slowdown. FACONAUTO sees the negative trend continuing in the first months of 2019.
ANFAC said the market distortions caused by the introduction in the EU of the WLTP testing regime for new cars is now largely over. Automakers flooded the market with cars to clear stocks ahead of the Sept. 1 introduction of WLTP, causing August sales to leap by 49 percent, but leading to declines in the following months.
Opel among monthly winners
Among volume brands, Volkswagen and its sister brand Skoda were among the best performers in December. Both brands gained 35 percent, helped by demand for the VW T-Roc and Skoda Karoq new SUVs. Within the VW group, Audi sales rose 5.2 percent, while Seat's sales fell 2.1 percent.
Within the PSA group, Opel had a good month with sales up 16 percent, boosted by higher volumes of its Grandland X and Crossland X crossovers, and Corsa subcompact hatchback. Peugeot sales dropped 7.9 percent, while Citroen's registrations declined by 5.1 percent.
Renault brand registrations fell 41 percent and Dacia sales dropped by 13 percent.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' Jeep brand more than doubled deliveries (+138 percent), boosted by its Renegade and Compass SUVs. Fiat sales fell 25 percent.
Ford's registrations were down 5.9 percent.
Asian automakers had mostly negative results. Nissan sales fell 22 percent, Kia’s volume was down 27 percent and Hyundai sales declined 1.2 percent. Toyota sales declined by 3.2 percent. Mazda bucked the trend with a 1.7 percent increase in sales.
Among German premium brands, BMW sales jumped 18 percent while Mercedes-Benz registrations were up 8.4 percent.
The market share for diesel cars recovered in December, rising to 32.3 percent from 30.5 percent in November, but it was still down from 43.9 percent in December 2017. Diesel's overall 2018 share was 35.8 percent, down from 48.3 percent in 2017.
The share of gasoline vehicles declined to 59.4 percent, down from 61.3 percent in November but up from 50.7 percent in December 2017. Full-year share was 57.5 percent, up from 46.6 percent in 2017.
Hybrid and electric vehicles took an 8.3 market share in December, up from 8.2 percent in November. Full-year share rose to 6.6 percent from 5.1 percent in 2017.
Total market registrations for 2018 were up 7 percent to 1.3 million. Sales to companies rose 14 percent, sales to rental companies increased 5.7 percent and sales to private customers were up 3.7 percent.