Are BEVs to blame for German new-car market decline?

10 June 2024

Battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) dragged Germany’s new-car market into decline in May, despite a positive month for internal-combustion engine (ICE) powertrains. Tom Hooker, Autovista24 journalist, analyses the figures.

The German new-car market recorded 236,425 registrations in May, a drop of 4.3% year on year. This equated to a loss of over 10,000 units in the sector’s worst performance since February 2024, according to figures released by the Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt (KBA).

According to Autovista24 calculations, excluding BEVs from the total sees registration volumes grow by 1.2%. This highlights the impact of a poor BEV performance on the market. Deliveries of all-electric vehicles have fluctuated since the country ended sales incentives for the technology in the middle of December last year.

Across the first five months of the year, a total of 1.17 million new cars took to Germany’s roads. This was up 5.1% compared to the same period in 2023, the market's best start to a year since 2019.

BEVs barrelling decline

In May, BEVs slumped 30.6% year on year, with 29,708 registrations. This was the technology’s biggest monthly drop so far this year, and marks four consecutive months of decline.

It was the only powertrain to post a loss in market share during May, falling 4.7 percentage points (pp) to 12.6%. Furthermore, BEVs were the only powertrain to suffer year-to-date decreases in both volume and market share.

Deliveries in the year-to-date were down 15.9% year on year, with 140,713 units. Meanwhile, BEVs accounted for 12% of new-car registrations from January to May, dropping 3pp compared to the same period last year.

The technology’s struggles are clearly impacting CO2 emissions, which were up by 3.3% last month compared to May 2023.

‘The slump in May registrations of all-electric vehicles is massive. Political signals and countermeasures are now needed quickly to restore consumer confidence in e-mobility,’ said Reinhard Zirpel, president of the Association of International Motor Vehicle Manufacturers (VDIK).

‘This includes the accelerated expansion of the charging infrastructure as well as strategic approaches to reduce the price of electricity in Germany, which is one of the highest in the EU,’ Zirpel added.

PHEV persistence

Plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) posted 14,038 registrations last month, up 1.7% from 12 months ago. PHEV models have enjoyed the best growth of all powertrains across the first five months of 2024, up 17.5% year on year with 74,158 units.

The technology took its lowest market share of the year in May, sitting at 5.9%. Yet, this was still 0.3pp above May 2023. In the year-to-date, it accounted for 6.3% of new-car deliveries, up from 5.7% during the same period last year.

Combining PHEV and BEV results, electric vehicle (EV) registrations were down 22.7% last month, reaching 43,746 units. As BEVs saw nearly double the volume of PHEVs, plug-ins were dragged into a 6.7% year-on-year decline across the first five months of 2024, with 214,871 deliveries.

Yet EVs recorded their second-highest market share this year in May, with 18.5%. However, this was still down 4.4pp from the same period in 2023. In the year-to-date, the technology is 2.3pp below last year’s figure, at 18.3%.

Delight for diesel

Diesel achieved the best volume increase of any powertrain last month, rising 3.2% compared to May 2023. This was thanks to 44,893 registrations.

The ICE variant has continued to outperform petrol in terms of growth. With 222,664 units registered in the year to date, deliveries were up 8.1% year on year.

The powertrain enjoyed a surge in share during May, taking 19% of the market, an improvement of 1.4pp year on year. Diesel also accounted for 19% of deliveries from January to May, up from 18.4% against the same period in 2023.

‘We are currently experiencing a revival of combustion engines,’ commented Federation of Motor Trades and Repairs (ZDK) vice president Thomas Peckruhn.

‘This is also due to the fact that many manufacturers and importers are steering their sales incentives in this direction again instead of supporting e-mobility. Customers are generally open to EVs. But the overall price difference is still too high for many,’ Peckruhn explained.

Petrol persistency

Petrol enjoyed a 2.1% registration rise in May, recording 89,498 deliveries. It saw the biggest market share spike of all powertrains last month, up 2.4pp to 37.9%.

Across the first five months of 2024, petrol volumes increased by 6.3%, reaching 438,810 units. This was the powertrain’s best performance in this period since 2020. in terms of market share, petrol accounted for 37.4% of registrations, compared to 37% recorded in the same period last year.

Combining diesel and petrol deliveries, this year has seen an overall ICE resurgence. Registrations were up 2.4% in May, sitting at 134,391 units.

Across the first five months of the year, these vehicles reached 661,474 registrations. This was an improvement of 6.9% year on year and the highest total in this period since 2021.

ICE models benefitted from BEV’s struggles last month, taking a market share of 56.8% and gaining 3.6pp compared to May 2023. The sector has accounted for 56.3% of all deliveries so far this year, up 0.9pp.

Hybrid halts

Hybrids, including both full and mild hybrid powertrains, recorded a slight registration drop last month, with 57,413 units down 0.7%. However, this did not stop its double-digit growth so far in 2024, surging 11.3% to 291,387 deliveries.

Despite gaining 0.9pp in market share to 24.3%, May was still hybrid's lowest result of 2024. So far this year, hybrids have accounted for 24.8% of the new-car market, up 1.4pp compared to the same period in 2023.

According to Autovista24 calculations, the ‘others’ category posted 875 registrations last month, slumping 34.5%. Yet, this only equated to a drop of 382 units compared to May 2023.

Deliveries were up 10.4% in the year-to-date, thanks to 6,502 registrations. The category’s share dropped 0.2pp in May to 0.3% and was up marginally across the first five months of the year, sitting at 0.6%.

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