Even deeper decline for BEVs in German new-car market

09 April 2024

All powertrains suffered from a decline in Germany’s new-car market in March, including battery-electric vehicles (BEVs). Tom Hooker, Autovista24 journalist, reviews the poor performance.

The German new-car market shrank by 6.2% in March, according to the latest data from the Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt (KBA). This meant that 263,831 units took to the road during the month, according to Autovista24 powertrain calculations.

This was the country’s highest delivery total since August 2023. However, Germany’s year-on-year registration decline follows a wider European trend. Negative results were also recorded elsewhere in the region, such as France, Spain and Italy.

The result comes off the back of Germany’s best start to a year since 2020. January 2024 saw a particularly strong increase in registrations when compared with the first month of 2023.

Yet last month’s struggles were not enough to drag Germany’s year-to-date performance into negative numbers. Across the first quarter of 2024, the new-car market reached 694,749 registrations, up by 4.2% on the first three months of 2023.

According to the latest EV Volumes (part of J.D. Power) forecast, 2.89 million registrations are expected in 2024. This would equate to a growth of 1.7% on Germany’s 2023 result and is a slight improvement of 0.4 percentage points (pp) on January’s forecast.

Brutal BEV decline

March amplified this year’s struggle for BEVs, following the worst February for the powertrain since 2021. A total of 31,384 deliveries meant a drop of 28.9% year on year, compared to February’s fall of 15.4%. The sudden removal of purchase incentives in December is clearly still making an impact on registrations.

Despite January’s growth, all-electric vehicles saw a 14.1% delivery decline in the first quarter of 2024 compared to the same period last year. The technology saw significant drops in market share, slumping to 11.9% of all registrations in March, from 15.7% one year ago.

BEVs suffered less of a slip in the year to date. Its share fell to 11.7%, down 2.5pp. This was thanks to January’s performance, although these figures were skewed by a slump at the start of 2023.

Although BEVs remain more popular than plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), it is the worst-performing powertrain of 2024 so far. All-electric vehicles are the only propulsion type to experience a year-to-date decline in deliveries, alongside the largest loss in market share across the first three months of the year.

Scary situation

‘The slump in the number of new registrations of battery-electric cars now clearly confirms the difficult situation we are in,’ said Federation of Motor Trades and Repairs (ZDK) vice president Thomas Peckruhn.

‘The ramp-up of e-mobility continues to slow down. There is a lack of low-cost electric vehicles in all segments. Electromobility only works as an overall system – from the generation of green electricity at market-driven prices to the charging infrastructure and service concepts. Here, policymakers must think holistically and provide targeted incentives,’ Peckruhn added.

EV Volumes forecasts that the BEV powertrain will fall short of its 2023 figure, reaching 512,055 registrations by the end of the year. This equates to a drop of 2.3% or just over 12,000 units.

A slump in market share is also expected, down to 17.7% across 2024 from 18.4% last year. This is a drop on January’s outlook, which expected the powertrain to take 21.2% of the German new-car market.

‘The moderate growth of the German passenger car market in the first quarter is fundamentally positive. What is worrying, however, is the double-digit decline in electric vehicles, which is also affecting the overall market,’ explained Reinhard Zirpel, president of the Association of International Motor Vehicle Manufacturers (VDIK).

‘Unfortunately, customer confidence in the BEV market has been more than affected by the abrupt decision to discontinue the electric bonus at the end of 2023. The current discussions about a possible end to the EU's planned phase-out of combustion engines for 2035 are also counterproductive,’ Zirpel commented.

PHEVs peaceful start

Compared to their plug-in counterpart, PHEVs had a peaceful start to 2024. However, the powertrain posted a year-on-year delivery drop of 4.5% last month, making it the second worst-performing propulsion type in March. This equated to 16,016 registrations, and a decrease of 760 units from one year ago.

Yet, this did not drag the technology’s year-to-date performance down, sitting year-on-year growth of 19.8%. This was thanks to double-digit surges in the first two months of the year, although these figures were skewed by PHEV’s poor start to 2023.

The technology marginally increased its market share in March (6.1%, up 0.1pp), following improvements in January and February. Its first-quarter growth saw more significant gains, up 0.9pp to 6.5%.

EV Volumes expect PHEVs to eclipse last year’s result, rising 8.8% to 191,221 units. The powertrain is also now forecast to improve on its 6.2% market share from last year, reaching 6.6% in 2024. In contrast, the technology’s original outlook from January was 6.2%.

Painful plug-in result

Electric vehicles (EVs), combining BEV and PHEV results, reached 47,400 registrations in March. This was a drop of 22.2% compared to the same period in 2023. This had a big impact on market share, which fell to 18% in March from 21.6% one year ago.

There was also a first-quarter slowdown for EVs, with registrations down 4.5%. So, despite a rise in PHEV deliveries, the BEV decline is still enough to push EV figures downwards. The year-to-date plug-in share fell to 18.2%, down 1.6pp.

Helped by PHEVs, EV Volumes sees electric vehicle deliveries increasing on last year's total by 0.5%, passing the 700,000-unit threshold after missing this margin by only 60 units in 2023. Meanwhile, the plug-in market share is expected to sink to 24.3%, down 0.3pp from last year.

Hybrids hopeful in Germany

The hybrids category, including full and mild hybrids, experienced one of the smallest declines of all powertrains in March, falling 0.3% to 67,033 deliveries. This equated to a drop of just 220 units.

Hybrids accounted for over a quarter (25.4%) of all registrations last month, up 1.5pp year on year. This continues the powertrain’s record of posting market-share increases every month so far in 2024. In January and February, the technology enjoyed double-digit growth.

More double-digit growth was recorded in hybrid’s year-to-date results, the only major powertrain alongside PHEVs to do so, thanks to an 11.3% delivery spike. It is comfortably the second most popular propulsion type, over 40,000 units ahead of diesel in 2024 so far. This was shown in its first quarter market share, up 1.6pp to 25%.

Hybrids are forecast by EV Volumes to continue this progress throughout the year, albeit at a slower rate. A total of 683,589 registrations are expected across 2024, an increase of 2.8% on last year's result. This is replicated in its predicted market share, rising to 23.7% this year, up 0.3pp.

Puzzling petrol performance

Petrol kept its spot as the best-selling powertrain in March, yet experienced a registration decline of 3.4%, with 99,753 models taking to the road. However, its market share trended upward, growing 1.1pp to 37.8%.

This result is made more puzzling when looking at January and February. Despite a strong performance in each month, both saw a drop in market share. A decline was also seen in petrol’s year-to-date share, down 0.1pp to 37.2%.

Although the powertrain was unable to break the 100,000-unit threshold in March, it saw volume increase by 4% in the first quarter, thanks to a positive first two months of the year.

EV Volumes expects petrol to pass one million deliveries in 2024, increasing by 10.5% from last year’s figure of 978,660 units. Market share is forecast to reach 37.4% this year, a sizeable improvement of 3pp from 2023 and the powertrain’s original outlook of 34.3% in January.

Diesel digs-in

Alongside hybrids, diesel saw its first decline of the year with a marginal drop in March, down 0.5%. This equated to 48,365 registrations, meaning its market share grew to 18.3%, up 1pp. This shows that both internal-combustion engine (ICE) powertrains and hybrids have taken full advantage of BEV’s struggles.

Meanwhile, diesel deliveries across the first three months of 2024 increased by 4.1% year on year. This kept the year-to-date share at 18.9%.

Even with its strong start to the year, EV Volumes forecast that diesel registrations will slump by 15.6% to 410,728 units in 2024. This would mean a 14.2% market share this year, matching January’s forecast and falling from 17.1% in 2023.

Issues for ICE?

Largely due to petrol’s poor performance, ICE registrations were pushed into decline in March, with 148,118 units down 2.5% from one year ago. However, a solid start to the year for both powertrains meant a 4.1% increase in the first quarter.

Thanks to BEV hardship, ICE increased its share to 56.1% in March, up 2.1pp. This effect is shown in the year to date, with ICE falling 0.1pp to 56.1%.

EV Volumes sees a slight rise in volume for ICE, up 1.8% thanks to an expected 1.49 million units. Marginal market-share gains are also forecast, up 0.1pp to reach 51.6% in 2024.

The ‘others’ category saw registrations fall by 4.1% in March, however, this only equated to a drop of 55 units. The category enjoyed the biggest first-quarter delivery spike out of all powertrains, resulting in just over 1,000 more registrations than in the first three months of 2023.

This improvement is noticeable when looking at market share, as it has taken 0.7% of all deliveries so far in 2024, compared to 0.5% at the same stage last year.

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