German diesel car sales plummet
Data released this week by the Federal Motor Transport Authority shows new registrations of diesel cars fell by 25.4 per cent in March to under 109,000, a year-on-year decline of about 146,000.
Only 31.4 per cent of cars registered by the KBA federal vehicle licensing agency in March were diesel-powered, 9.2 percentage points fewer than in March 2017.
New registrations of all cars dropped 3.4 per cent year-on-year to 347,433 last month.
The highest German administrative court ruled on February 27 that cities could ban diesel cars and heavy goods vehicles to limit air contamination in the most polluted areas of cities.
Twenty of Germany’s largest cities are set to breach to comply with EU clean-air limits by 2020. The European Commission has threatened to sue Germany at the European Court of Justice, along with many of the EU’s other major members, unless it addresses its urban pollution.
The EU court action is designed to reduce harmful fine particles and nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions.
Germany’s Federal Environmental Agency (UBA) estimates that diesel vehicles were responsible for more than 50 per cent of harmful NOx emissions in the country.
The decision is a further blow to diesel manufacturing, which was hailed as providing environmental solutions. It follows the revelations in 2015 that the world’s largest carmaker, Volkswagen, designed software to cheat US emissions tests.
Germany’s new federal government under Chancellor Angela Merkel is trying to stop the court ruling.
The new transport minister Andreas Scheuer has tried to reassure diesel drivers that his ministry would oppose any outright driving bans in order to prevent a depreciation in the value of their vehicles and instead promote less heavy-handed measures like software updates.
But in the meantime the threat of the legal ruling and the plummeting secondhand values have put buyers off. However, over the first quarter of 2018, car sales, a key indicator of German economic health, were up 4 per cent.
Volkswagen said it boosted its German sales by 7.2 per cent in the first three months of the year.
BMW, which this year was implicated in an uproar over diesel emissions testing on monkeys, saw quarterly sales fall 1.9 per cent.
Mercedes-Benz, which was also associated with the monkey research scandal, increased sales slightly.
Munich. Many of Germany’s urban areas breach EU pollution limits. Picture credit: Wikimedia