Despite an excellent December month (+20,6% compared to last year), the Belgian car market regressed by 4,4% compared to 2021. This was due to significant deficits in sales in the first seven months, which couldn’t be compensated by the progress in the last five months. As the Belgian market stays dominated by company cars, BMW remains the number one seller, while Mercedes-Benz (3rd) and Audi (5th) are also in the top five.
In total, 366 303 cars were registered in 2022, and that’s 4,4% less than in 2021, when 383 123 cars went to customers. Of course, we’re far from the 550 000 vehicles sold in 2019, but even in the ‘pandemic year’ 2020, it was still more than 435 000. This year’s registrations are the lowest since 1995 when some 359 000 cars were registered.
The delivery delays can partially explain this: an importer like D’Ieteren, for example, has some 100 000 orders in its books for the moment, while the normal is some 30 000, says CEO Denis Gorteman.
Another critical factor is the hesitation of the individual car buyer to change cars, making the Belgian car market increasingly dominated by the company car. Hence, the excellent performance of the (German) premium brands.
In contrast, light commercial vehicles (LCVs) are still in a more profound downward movement, regressing again by 12% in December, compared to 2021 and by 21,6% compared to the whole of last year. For the lighter trucks (under 16 tons), it’s the same story: -28,6% in 2022 compared to 2021.
A more important truck market in Belgium is that of the heavier ones (16 tons or more), and the story is entirely different there. In December, 31,9% more heavy trucks were sold compared to the last month of 2021, and the cumulative sales for the whole year 2022 were also 11,5% higher than in 2021.
Last but not least, the two-wheelers maintained almost their sales in 2022, thanks to a remarkable December month (+45,8% compared to the previous year in December). It makes the regress compared to the whole year of 2021 (-2,9%) far less significant.
BMW is on top again
As expected, BMW is the number one brand again in the Belux market. In December, it sold almost twice as many cars as last year (+85,7%) and totaled 38 011 units in 2022, only 2,44% less than in 2021. The brand leads, by far, the number two (Volkswagen), having sold 32 061 cars this year.
A severe winner is Mercedes-Benz, the new number three and progressing by 6,4% to 29 283 cars sold. On the other hand, Peugeot, even when it also progressed by 2,3%, lost its previous third place to the Stuttgarters and sold 29 140 cars. Finally, closing the top five is Audi, which regressed by 6,4% in sales and sold 26 253 vehicles.
A very positive surprise was Toyota this year, selling 21 262 cars (+34,6%) and, by doing so, sneaking away the 6th place from Renault (-7,5%). The 8th place is for Citroën (-8,7%), but Renault can console itself with the 9th place of sister brand Dacia (+10%). The top ten is being closed by another healthy seller and (now) the first Korean, Kia (+13,6%, selling still more than 15 000 cars).
These shifts in the ranking are to the detriment of popular brands like Ford (-14,8%), Volvo (-14,8%), Opel (-24,7%), Skoda (-20,8%), and Hyundai (-20,8%). Other substantial losers are Fiat (-30%), Seat (-23,0%), Mazda (-27,2%), Jeep (-34%), and Jaguar (-50,5%).
The sales loss of Seat is greatly compensated by the spectacular rise in sales of sister brand Cupra (+145,5%, 28th in the ranking). Other stunning climbers are the electric car producers Tesla (+46,8%, 20th place) and Polestar (+73,6%, 27th place). A special mention for Lynk&Co, the Geely daughter, with its unique subscription formula: ‘sales’ more than doubled (+102%) compared to last year with almost 1 500 registrations.
We already mentioned that two significant factors could explain the sales regress in Belgium and Luxembourg. The first is the shortage of some components or parts, making delivery times much longer (sometimes reaching a year or more). However, this hasn’t affected the financial results of a lot of manufacturers too much because they have been selling cars with far fewer rebates, at higher prices, and with better equipment (taking prices also higher).
The second factor is the general hesitation of the individual car buyer in the Belux. They don’t know what to buy now, so purchasing a new car is postponed or replaced by a secondhand alternative. Especially the strong brands in this part of the market (like Renault, Ford, Opel, Fiat, and the like) suffer from it.
Of course, one could say they are also causing their own problem. Almost all car manufacturers have declared that they want to sell fewer cars but at higher prices and to go more premium. The result is that the market for cheaper cars is being abandoned, leaving low-cost brands like, for example, Dacia to collect all the remaining sales.
The fact that people still want to have a range of 400 km and more with their electric car (although driving on average 40 km per day in Belgium) makes that EV also more and more expensive (raw material and energy costs up). Currently, there’s no real EV under 20 000 euros anymore, the Dacia Spring having risen 3 000 euros in price. It probably explains the sudden popularity of an EV ‘four-wheeler’ like the Citroën Ami.
Therefore, many importers expect a lot from the coming Brussels Motor Show. Especially the smaller and newer brands, not able to offer their whole portfolio at the dealer and not very present in the company car market, are looking forward to meeting the average customer again at this yearly event that couldn’t take place two years in a row because of the pandemic. Some small brands make more than three-fourths of their annual sales in these first months of the year.