2020 with the pandemic and the stay home message was already a pretty poor year for the car sector. Car showrooms remained closed for two periods and 2021 showed no improvement. The number of newly registered new cars fell 11% last year. Sales are down a whopping 30% compared with 2019 – currently considered to be the last ‘normal’ year.
Industry federation Febiac chiefly blames the poor sales on chip shortages that mean car assembly production lines grind to a standstill time and time again. Both Volvo Car in Ghent and Audi Brussels lost twenty days of production due to chip shortages last year.
As a result, waits for new cars are getting longer and longer. Waits have ballooned from two to three months to five to six! Many cars ordered last year will only be delivered this year. Many consumers are instead deciding to purchase a vehicle that is readily available on the second-hand car market.
BMW is now Belgium’s best-selling brand ahead of Peugeot and Volkswagen. The German marque links its success to its electric models. The i3, the iX, the i4 and iX3 are completely electric. Most other models are available as a plug-in hybrid. 40% of BMWs now being sold possess an electric engine. “Half these cars are entirely electric. The other half are hybrids” says Jeroen Lissens of BMW Belgium.
The success of a top range brand like BMW is also being linked to the large number of company cars in Belgium. As far as tax is concerned company cars are more attractive than a pay increase and employers and employees often pick more expensive models as they lose less value over time.