Belgian car market receding for 6 months in a row
Since October 2018, the Belgian car market is receding. This hasn’t happened in years and is the result of different events. First of all the transition to WLTP rules but most important the uncertainty about the automotive future.
The Belgian market has always been a good barometer for the car business in general in Europe. As this business is essentially cyclic, we’re now coming in a downwards movement.
“There is a light saturation”, says Joost Kaesemans, spokesman at Belgian manufacturers and importers federation Febiac. “If we stay at 500.000 new cars per year in a market of 5,7 million overall, that’s correct.”
The first hiccup has been the transition to more stringent emission rules, the so-called WLTP (Worldwide harmonized Light vehicle Test Procedure). Some manufacturers were ready for it, others weren’t.
Especially the VW Group has had big difficulties adapting its entire portfolio to the new rules. Models disappeared, the queues at the homologation labs were getting longer and longer, cars were standing on green fields and airports awaiting new homologation.
Last January the number of visitors at the Brussels Motor Show was very high, but the number of sales contracts resulting from it was lower than expected. The average client is hesitating: is diesel still a good choice, does he better look for alternatives?
Most people’s reaction is to stay in the car they have for the moment. Especiallyconsumers are hesitating. Company cars have a fixed life cycle plan, although this also tends to get longer. The result is a slower market.
The car sector is hoping that the second half of the year will be better. “With the elections of May behind us, we can only hope that there will be governments soon and that they will take decisions”, says Karl Schuybroek of Renault.
At the moment the forecasts for 2019 are a slight fall in sales (4 to 5%), according to Febiac. The most important car importer in Belgium, D’Ieteren (VW Group), is expecting the same. It makes the company more optimistic than in the beginning of the year, where it expected -10%.
Even then the Belgian market would be at a level of ±480.000 new cars per year, an amount considered more appropriate to the size of the Belgian market. Some experts consider it weird that the market isn’t preparing itself for really big changes.
They think that the still increasing congestion problems and the switch to other means of mobility (car sharing, public transport, biking, etc.) are underestimated in their future influence on car sales. In reality, everybody is holding his breath.