Diesel sales grow in Germany despite continued rhetoric

06 February 2019

Diesel sales grow in Germany despite continued rhetoric

6 February 2019

Germany has seen a rise in diesel sales during the first month of 2019, bucking a trend that is playing out across the continent.

In January, the country saw overall sales dip by 1.4% with 265,702 new cars registered, according to German motor authority KBA. However, the diesel market saw growth of 2.1% compared to January 2018 and the diesel market share therefore rose slightly – to 34.5%. Petrol sales declined 8.1%, although petrol still holds a commanding 57.6% of the German market.

Germany’s diesel market has faced a tougher time than most in recent months, with the environmental lobby group DUH bringing lawsuits against local authorities and forcing them into banning the powertrain from certain city areas. Berlin is the latest city to announce it is planning such action, joining Hamburg, Frankfurt and Stuttgart amongst others.

However, these only relate to Euro 5 engines and below, meaning modern Euro 6 and Euro 6d TEMP diesel cars can still enter restricted zones. This has led to Volkswagen (VW) expanding its trade-in incentive across the whole country, with the brand increasing diesel sales by 1.5% in January.

Diesel results from the rest of Europe show the fuel type’s decline is continuing at pace. UK figures show a drop of 20.3%, while France registered a 17.8% fall. Italy’s diesel sales fell 31% but the biggest decline was seen in Spain, with sales down 36.4% year-on-year in January.

The results, therefore, appear to suggest that Germany is an anomaly amongst the EU5. One potential explanation could be the increase in supply following the introduction of WLTP emissions checks, which caught some manufacturers off guard. Sales to fleets were up 1.5%, amongst these, car rental firms, often preferring diesel vehicles, grew 5.5%.

The VDIK importers association said recovering demand from fleet buyers and wider availability of diesel cars that comply with new emissions standards helped diesel sales to rebound.

The subject of diesel has also caused tensions in the German Government. SPD leaders raised the prospect of hefty fines for carmakers who refused to take urgent measures to cut diesel emissions. ‘Carmakers have not fully grasped the danger posed by driving bans for diesel vehicles in Frankfurt or Berlin,’ said Sören Bartol, an SPD member of parliament.

Sales of full-electric cars grew 68% for a 1.7% share. Hybrid car sales rose 66%, taking a 5.7% market share, although sales of plug-in hybrids fell 26% for a 0.8% share as the effects of the WLTP regime continued to weigh on their availability.