Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 22 August 2019

Emissions test woes ding German car sales

Tougher emissions tests are one of the responses to Volkswagen's 'dieselgate' emissions cheating scandal

The Volkswagen assembly plant in Chattanooga, US. REUTERS
The Volkswagen assembly plant in Chattanooga, US. REUTERS

Months of disruption to the German car industry from new emissions tests barely dented annual sales figures in 2018, official data showed, although diesel vehicles' popularity ebbed further.

A total of 3.44 million new cars were registered on the roads last year, the KBA transport authority said, 0.2 per cent lower than in 2017.

The annual figure smooths out wide variations in monthly deliveries.

Carmakers rushed as many vehicles out of factory doors as possible in the months before the new Europe-wide emissions tests known as WLTP came into force in September.

That month saw registrations tumble before a rebound in the final quarter, although at 237,000 December's figure was still down 6.7 per cent year-on-year.

The tougher Europe-wide emissions tests are one of the political responses to Volkswagen's 'dieselgate' emissions cheating scandal.

Mammoth carmaker Volkswagen admitted in 2015 that it manipulated 11 million diesel-fueled cars worldwide to appear less polluting in the lab than on the road.

The hangover for diesel has been harsh, with just 32.3 per cent of vehicles sold in Germany last year powered by the fuel - compared with 48 per cent in 2015 and 38.8 per cent in 2017.

Drivers have been scared off by the prospect of bans for diesel motors from parts of heavily polluted city centres like Frankfurt and Stuttgart, although the latest, cleanest models are set to be spared.

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The year was a mixed one for German manufacturers, with Volkswagen and BMW inching up domestic sales of their own-brand cars by 1.5 per cent and 1.2 per cent.

Meanwhile Mercedes-Benz sold 2.2 per cent fewer cars and Opel's sales shrank 6.5 per cent.

Brighter news for BMW came from subsidiary Mini, which grew 8.1 per cent, and for Daimler from the Smart brand, which added 11.9 per cent - although both account for a fraction of their parent groups' sales.

Updated: January 4, 2019 05:19 PM

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