The European market has had its best first-half of the century, although diesels have taken a heavy hit in several countries

The European car market has experienced its highest number of first-half registrations this century, with registrations up 2.4% on 2017 to a total of 8.66 million cars. 

These figures are despite a trough in diesel registrations. Diesels are down by 17% over the first half of 2017 to now make up just 37% of the car market in Europe – the smallest share since 2001.

The backlash against diesel has been highest in the UK and Norway, with 30% and 32% drops respectively. Slovenia’s diesel car market declined 28% and those of Finland and Belgium fell by a fifth. 

As Europe turns to SUVs, registrations of all other segments of car collectively fell by 4% to 4.865 million, while SUV registrations grew to 2.92 million – a leap of 24%, taking the models to their highest market proportion in history.

The Volkswagen Group was the most prolific SUV manufacturer across the first half of the year, experiencing a 42% rise in its SUV registrations. It was bolstered by the new Volkswagen T-Roc, which has become the 32nd best-selling car in Europe, as well as one of the best-selling SUVs, despite having only recently been launched.

The Nissan Qashqai remains atop the SUV pack, however, climbing to fifth overall from sixth previously. The Volkswagen Golf remains Europe’s best-selling car, with more than a quarter of a million examples registered so far this year.

Europe’s top 10 best-selling cars in 2018 so far 

1 - Volkswagen Golf, 257,550 registrations2 - Renault Clio, 185,2343 - Volkswagen Polo, 163,9244 - Ford Fiesta, 157,2865 - Nissan Qashqai, 134,5476 - Peugeot 208, 132,7647 - Volkswagen Tiguan, 129,2378 - Skoda Octavia, 123,7109 - Renault Captur, 121,23510 - Vauxhall/Opel Corsa, 117,981

Our Verdict

Seat Ateca

Seat's first attempt at building an SUV is a cracker and knocked the Nissan Qashqai off its perch in the process, so we discover what makes the Ateca our class leader

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Peugeot 5008 2018 long-term review hero front
    18 March 2019
    First Drive
    Did six months with Peugeot's seven-seater prove it has a place among...
  • Lynk&Co 01 PHEV 2019 first drive review - hero front
    15 March 2019
    First Drive
    Youthful styling on a Volvo technological base make this plug-in hybrid SUV a...
  • Hyundai Santa Fe 2019 road test review - hero front
    15 March 2019
    Car review
    Hyundai’s US-market breakthrough SUV aims for greater European success

The well-publicised decline of MPVs continued into 2018, with a 23% drop in sales compared with the first half of 2017. A total of 532,600 were registered in Europe, making 2018 one of the worst years for MPVs in a decade. 

The UK was one of Europe’s weakest nations for overall registrations. Despite being one of the largest markets, a 6.3% drop over 2017 was posted. Romania, one of the smaller markets, had the largest growth, with a 33.4% year-on-year growth. Larger markets including Sweden, the Netherlands, Poland and Sweden also posted growth, while Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Italy, Switzerland and the Czech Republic were the other markets to post declines. 

Europe’s top 10 best-selling brands in 2018 so far

1 - Volkswagen, 988,507 registrations2 - Renault, 624,4433 - Ford, 573,2504 - Peugeot, 542,4335 - Opel/Vauxhall, 493,8026 - Mercedes-Benz, 460,0557 - Audi, 432,1918 - BMW, 428,1859 - Fiat, 405,51110 - Skoda, 398,650

Jato global analyst Felipe Munoz said: “Car makers continue to update and modernise their traditional models, while the range of SUVs on offer continues to grow and appeal to all kinds of budgets and needs. The diesel crisis certainly affected the speed of growth in the market, but consumers are overcoming this by turning to more attractive petrol and AFV [alternatively fuelled vehicles] solutions.”

Registrations of AFVs rose to 5.4% of the European total, making up 450,000 cars in total - a 31% increase over the same period in 2017. 

Read more:

Top 10 best family SUVs 2018

2018's most popular cars in Europe by market segment

2018's most popular cars in Europe – by country

UK new car market suffers biggest decline in Europe

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Peugeot 5008 2018 long-term review hero front
    18 March 2019
    First Drive
    Did six months with Peugeot's seven-seater prove it has a place among...
  • Lynk&Co 01 PHEV 2019 first drive review - hero front
    15 March 2019
    First Drive
    Youthful styling on a Volvo technological base make this plug-in hybrid SUV a...
  • Hyundai Santa Fe 2019 road test review - hero front
    15 March 2019
    Car review
    Hyundai’s US-market breakthrough SUV aims for greater European success