Emissions test hangover for German October car sales

Germany: New car sales in Germany rebounded in October from a plunge triggered the previous month by new emissions tests, official data showed Friday, but remained well short of their level a year ago.

Some 252,682 new cars were registered last month, the KBA transport authority said, 7.4 percent fewer than in October 2017.

But the figure marked signficant ground regained compared with September, when registrations fell more than 30 percent year-on-year to around 200,000 vehicles.

“The consequences of the ‘WLTP effect’ continue to be make themselves felt strongly in the market,” said Reinhard Zirpel, president of the VIDK car importers’ association.

Carmakers have been hard pressed to get their models approved under a new emissions testing regime known as WLTP, introduced in the wake of Volkswagen’s “dieselgate” scandal.

The sprawling 12-brand group admitted in 2015 to manipulating millions of vehicles worldwide with software to cheat regulatory scrutiny.

Now the tougher WLTP procedure aims to better reflect output of harmful gases like nitrogen oxides (NOx) in real on-road driving conditions.

Many manufacturers scrambled over summer to register as many vehicles as possible and ship them to dealers before the new rules came into effect.

With less need to replenish stocks, that summer bulge is another reason why deliveries have slowed since WLTP came into force in September.

Looking in more detail at October’s figures, Volkswagen’s own-brand cars recouped some of their lost market share from September, with 16.2 percent of sales compared with just over 10 percent in the previous month.

But that was still short of the Wolfsburg-based carmaker’s usual monthly tally of around one in five vehicles sold in Germany.

Peugeot-owned Opel — which momentarily overtook VW’s market share in September — fell back to 7.7 percent.

Meanwhile VW’s luxury subsidiaries Audi and Porsche remained far behind last October’s levels, accounting for just 3.1 and 0.2 percent of sales.

Rival high-end manufacturers BMW and Mercedes-Benz claimed 9.3 percent and 12.6 percent of the market.

The KBA data continued to reflect buyers’ distrust of diesel-powered cars, which claimed just 31.8 percent of the market compared with 62.3 percent for petrol motors.

Drivers have been scared off the fuel by the prospect of diesel exclusion zones in many of Germany’s most-polluted cities, as local authorities struggle to bring down NOx levels.