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Sales of new vehicles in Europe registered a historic drop in 2021, weighed down by the health crisis and the shortage of semiconductors, which have prevented the manufacture of millions of cars.

Last year, 9.7 million cars were sold in the European Union (EU), according to data published this Tuesday, the lowest figure recorded since the beginning of the current statistical series in 1990, below 2013 and 1993, the worst years of the automobile industry.

With the sixth consecutive month of decline in December, sales fell 2.4% in Europe, compared to 2020, paralyzed by the pandemic.

“This decline is a consequence of the shortage of semiconductors that slowed down the production of automobiles throughout the year, especially in the second half,” explained the AEuropean Manufacturers Association (THAT).

The year 2021 in Europe was marked by the collapse in Germany, its main market, which registered a drop of 10.1% in a year with 2.6 million vehicles sold.

After a 2020 marked by factory closures and health restrictions, the German automobile sector had a sustained recovery at the start of last year.

But in the second half faced two hurdles in the world market: a shortage of semiconductors and logistical problems that dampened hopes of a lasting recovery.

Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark also had sharp falls. France was stable (+0.5%) but at a low level with 1.66 million units sold, a level similar to that of 1975.

Spain, which had been one of the hardest-hit countries in 2020, was almost unchanged (+0.1%), while Italy recovered a little more, with 5.5%.

The largest manufacturers in the market felt the blow: the number one Volkswagen fell 4.8% with 2.4 million units sold, while the Renault group lost 10.2% and Stellantis (Peugeor, Fiat, Chrysler Y Opel between three brands) fell 2.1 percent.

According to experts, the recovery could be delayed. “The beginning of 2022 will still be difficult in terms of semiconductor supply,” Alexandre Marian, from the AlixPartners cabinet, told AFP.

“By the middle of the year it should improve, but that does not mean that other problems will not appear, on issues related to raw materials, logistics or lack of labor,” he added.

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