Stock of vehicles at regional level
From Statistics Explained
- Data from March 2013. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database.
This article presents recent statistics on the number of both passenger cars and freight vehicles in the European Union (EU), down to the level of regions (NUTS 2). One measure of this, the number of passenger cars per inhabitant, shows significant disparities in car ownership within the EU: the highest regional rate is more than eight times the lowest one. For the whole EU (EU-27), the average rate in 2010 was 0.46 passenger cars per inhabitant.
The regional rates are often linked to the economic situation, but they can also be affected by specific circumstances: the highest rate within the European Union, in Vale d’Aosta, is influenced by a specific tax arrangement and not reflecting the actual number of passenger cars per inhabitant in the region. The impact of high population density is different depending on the area in the EU considered: in the Western Member States (notably in Germany and the United Kingdom) the capital regions show low ratios, while the opposite holds for Eastern Member States (such as the Czech Republic and Romania) and for Turkey, where the highest ratio is observed in the capital region.
The largest numbers of passenger cars per inhabitant are registered in Western European regions, at significantly higher levels than the regions of the Centre and the East of Europe. For road freight vehicles, however, the picture looks different, with less contrast between Western and Eastern European regions.
Main statistical findings
High number of passenger cars per inhabitant in regions of Northern Italy
Figure 2 indicates that 6 out of the 10 regions with the highest number of passenger cars per inhabitant are located in Italy. On the other hand, the top seven regions with the lowest number of passenger cars per inhabitant in 2010 were located in Romania. Figure 3 highlights however that, between 1990 and 2010, Romania registered the second highest average annual growth over the period among the EU-27 Member States (+6.3 % between 1991 and 2010 - see Data sources and availability), after Lithuania (+7.4 %). Turkey ranked between those countries with an average growth of +6.5 %. At the opposite end of the scale, France was the country where the number of passenger cars per inhabitant remained the most stable over the period considered, with an average annual growth of 0.1 % only. Sweden (+0.5 %) and Germany (+0.7 %) were the only other countries recording average annual growth between 1990 and 2010 of less than 1 %. In general, the Eastern and Central Member States, as well as Turkey and Croatia have registered stronger growths over the 1990-2010 period than West European countries.
The motorisation rate registered in the various regions of the European Union is often linked to economic issues. For instance, the top region Vale d’Aosta is a region with a specific tax regulation, leading to the number of passenger cars per inhabitant being overestimated. A number of regions close to larger cities also have a high number of passenger cars, suggesting a larger number of commuters. Examples of this are Flevoland in the Netherlands, Lazio in Italy and Attiki in Greece. Several island regions also have high motorisation rates, including Åland in Finland, Illes Balears in Spain, Sicilia in Italy and Corse in France. Map 1 highlights the significant disparities observed between West and East European countries when considering the number of passenger cars per inhabitant in 2010. In general, East European countries register the lowest numbers of passenger cars per inhabitant. In comparison, West European countries record higher rates, but with various countries presenting marked regional disparities.
The underlying data show that Romania, Greece and the United Kingdom are the Member States with the highest range in terms of regional disparities. In these countries, the region with the highest number of passenger cars per inhabitant recorded 3.5, 2.7 and 2.6 times respectively the lowest regional rate observed in 2010. Within the EU-27 (excluding Portugal for data availability issues), this rate was lower than 1.5 in eighteen Member States, indicating the relative homogeneity of the regions within the various countries in terms of number of passenger cars per inhabitant. Noticeable disparities are however clearly observable for some specific countries on Map 1. There is a strong north/south contrast in Italy, with the northern regions recording higher numbers of passenger cars per inhabitant than southern regions. In Greece, strong regional differences can also be observed between the high rate registered in the capital region (0.67 passenger cars per inhabitant in the Attiki region in 2010) and the low rate observed for the other regions of the country.
The geographical position of the regions influences the stock of freight vehicles
The picture is quite different when looking at road freight vehicles, where no systematic difference can be seen between West and East European regions. The share of freight vehicles in all road vehicles in a region depends on a number of different factors. Among these are the regional transport system and its infrastructure for different modes of freight transport, such as the capacity of motorways, railway lines, ports and airports. These factors also include the economic characteristics of the region, i.e. whether the regional economy is dominated by production of goods or services, and whether the region is located on key European freight corridors. Three of the top-5 EU regions with the lowest shares of freight vehicles in all types of vehicles are located in the United Kingdom and 4 of the top-10 regions are situated in Italy.
The highest shares of freight vehicles are mostly registered in Northern Europe regions. Eight of the top-10 regions with the highest shares of freight vehicles are located in Denmark, Finland and Sweden, the two remaining regions being situated in Greece. The average share of freight vehicles in all types of vehicles within the European Union was 17 % in 2010. This was less than half the highest regional rate observed in Nordjylland region in Denmark (39 %), and more than twice the lowest rate observed in Inner London (7 %). This particularly highlights the disparities existing in the regional structure of vehicle stocks throughout the European Union. The only two regions registering more than 900 thousand freight vehicles, Andalucía and Cataluña, are located on the Mediterranean. These two regions play a key role in freight transport in the West Mediterranean region, with direct ferry connections not only with the Spanish islands and Ceuta and Melilla, but especially between Andalucía and Morocco and Algeria and between Cataluña and Italy. Lombardia, with its main city Milan, one of the key economic centres of Italy, also registers a high number of freight vehicles. The geographical position of this region also seems to play a key role in the regional need for freight vehicles: Lombardia, located at the heart of international freight corridors between Italy, France, Switzerland and Austria, registers a very high volume of trans-Alpine freight transport. The capital regions in France (Ile de France) and Spain (Communidad de Madrid) record high stocks of freight vehicles as well, reflecting the importance of these economic and trade hubs within Europe.
Data sources and availability
Eurostat collects regional statistics on the infrastructure of road, railways and inland waterways, as well as vehicle stocks and road accidents. The data are provided by the Member States, the candidate countries and some EFTA countries on a voluntary basis using the REGWEB online application. The data are collected at NUTS 2 level for these transport indicators.
DK 2008 data have been used in this publication instead of 2010 data. Stocks of vans for passenger transport and vans for freight transport cannot be distinguished and are included altogether under freight vehicles.
EE Special purpose road vehicles only include self-propelled rollers.
FR 2009 data have been used in this publication instead of 2010 data.
HU The stock of vehicles excludes trolleybuses.
UK The number of passenger cars registered in the Cheshire region is overestimated due to the presence of the headquarters of a leasing company.
LI The stock of vehicles is as of 1st July 2010 instead of 31st December 2010.
Number of passenger cars per inhabitant
For a given year, this indicator is calculated on the basis of the stock of vehicles as of 31st December and the population figures as of 1st January of the following year.
The Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics (NUTS) was established by Eurostat more than 30 years ago in order to provide a single uniform breakdown of territorial units for the production of regional statistics for the European Union. From 1 May 2004, the regions in the 10 new Member States were added and from 1 January 2007 the regions of Bulgaria and Romania.
Data used are figures at different levels of NUTS 2006 as defined in the following legal acts:
- Regulation (EC) No 1059/2003 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 May 2003 on the establishment of a common classification of territorial units for statistics (NUTS);
- Regulation (EC) No 1888/2005 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 October 2005 amending Regulation (EC) No 1059/2003 on the establishment of a common classification of territorial units for statistics (NUTS) by reason of the accession of the Czech Republic, Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia to the European Union;
- Commission Regulation (EC) No 105/2007 of 1 February 2007 amending the annexes to Regulation (EC) No 1059/2003 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the establishment of a common classification of territorial units for statistics (NUTS)
- Regulation (EC) No 176/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 February 2008 amending Regulation (EC) No 1059/2003 on the establishment of a common classification of territorial units for statistics (NUTS) by reason of the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the European Union.
Certain smaller countries are not sub-divided in NUTS regions. This is the case for Estonia (EE), Cyprus (CY), Latvia (LV), Lithuania (LT), Luxembourg (LU), Malta (MT) and Liechtenstein (LI)
For country codes see here.
This article provides basic figures on the regional distribution of the stock of passenger cars and road freight vehicles. However, these data are only part of the wider set of regional transport statistics available in Eurostat’s databases. Regional transport statistics show patterns of variation across regions, where transport-related variables are often closely related to levels of economic activity. Transport policies are at the very heart of efforts to reduce regional inequality and improve regional cohesion. In the enlarged European Union, economic and infrastructure disparities are now more evident than before.
One of Eurostat’s long-term objectives is to expand the current regional transport indicators in order to provide a better understanding of the impact of transport policies on economic growth, transport needs and the environment.
- Manufacture of motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers statistics - NACE Rev. 2
- Motor trades statistics - NACE Rev. 2
- Road freight transport statistics
Further Eurostat information
- Energy, transport and environment indicators - Pocketbook - 2012 edition
- Regional yearbook 2013 - Chapter 10, Transport
- Regional yearbook 2012 - Chapter 10, Transport
- Transport, see:
- Regional transport statistics (t_tran_r)
- Transport, see:
- Multimodal data (tran)
- Regional transport statistics (tran_r)