German new-car market surges as PHEVs and diesels dazzle

07 May 2024


The German new-car market bounced back in April, with nearly all powertrains enjoying growth, especially plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) and diesel. Tom Hooker, Autovista24 journalist, looks into the numbers.

A total of 243,082 new cars took to German roads in April, according to Autovista24 powertrain calculations based on data from the Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt (KBA). This equated to a growth of 19.8% compared to the same month last year.

April 2024 marked the month’s best performance in five years, and the market’s biggest year-on-year growth since August 2023.

Benefitting from three more working days, every powertrain enjoyed growth last month, apart from battery-electric vehicles (BEVs). This follows a poor performance in March, where all technologies declined.

Across the first four months of 2024, registrations have increased by 7.8%, helped by further positivity in January and February. Based on Autovista24 calculations, this equates to 937,831 units, the market's best year-to-date result since 2019.

BEVs continue to suffer

In August 2023, the German new-car market was boosted by a surge in BEV registrations, up 170% year on year. This was caused by the end of commercial incentives, as buyers rushed to take advantage.

Fast forward to April 2024, the best monthly delivery increase since August, and BEVs struggled. The technology reached 29,668 registrations last month, down 0.2% compared to one year ago. BEVs accounted for 12.2% of deliveries in April, down 2.5 percentage points (pp).

‘The stagnation in the number of newly registered BEVs shows once again that private customers in particular are uncertain as to whether a switch to purely battery-electric mobility makes sense at the moment,’ said Federation of Motor Trades and Repairs (ZDK) vice president Thomas Peckruhn.

‘The supply does not currently reflect the demand for low-cost electric vehicles. The fact that consumers are increasingly turning back to petrol and diesel cars should be an incentive for politicians to clear the way for the widespread use of climate-neutral synthetic fuels,’ Peckruhn commented.

Deeply rooted decline

Between January and April, BEV deliveries decreased by 10.8%. This makes it the only major powertrain to endure a decline so far in 2024. It continues to suffer from the sudden removal of private incentives last December. This poor result is reflected in its market share, down from 14.3% in the first four months of 2023 to 11.8% so far this year.

‘The decline in all-electric vehicles that has been observed since the beginning of the year is becoming more entrenched,’ explained Reinhard Zirpel, president of the Association of International Motor Vehicle Manufacturers (VDIK).

‘The BEV segment is currently suffering a crisis of confidence, which was mainly caused by the short-term decision to discontinue the electric bonus,’ Zirpel added.

PHEV perfection

The performance of PHEVs continued positively, with the highest registration increase of all popular powertrains, both in April and the year-to-date.

The technology recorded 15,135 deliveries last month, up 28.4% year on year. So far in 2024, the powertrain has reached 60,120 units, its best performance in two years.

PHEVs increased its market share to 6.2% in April, up 0.4pp. The technology represented 6.4% of all registrations in the first four months of the year, up 0.7pp.

‘Plug-in hybrids are on the rise again because the new generations with a significantly greater electric range are back in the focus of fleet operators and commercial users,’ Peckruhn commented.

Mixed EV performance

Combining BEV and PHEV figures, electric vehicles (EVs) experienced a mixed April. On the one hand, PHEVs boosted the plug-in total to 44,803 deliveries, increasing by 7.9%.

Yet, the technology could not balance out the poor result from BEVs. There were 171,125 plug-in registrations across the first four months of the year, down 1.5%. This was the worst EV tally in this period since 2020, which was heavily impacted by COVID-19.

The plug-in market achieved its best market share of 2024 so far, sitting at 18.4% last month. However, this was down 2.1pp year on year. A similar trend occurred in the year-to-date, with EVs accounting for 18.2% of all deliveries, dropping from 20%.

Despite negativity for both the year-to-date market share and registration results, this was likely not caused by a lack of supply.

According to the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis), around 446,000 all-electric cars were imported into Germany in 2023, rising by 23.5%. China held the biggest BEV import share at 29%, more than doubling its hold from 2022 (12%).

There was also positivity for the region’s manufacturers. Around 786,000 BEV passenger cars were exported last year, equating to roughly one in four new cars exported. This was an increase of 58% and 161.6% compared to 2022 and 2021 respectively.

Happy hybrids

Hybrids, including full and mild hybrids, saw deliveries spike 25.9% in April, equating to 60,047 units. It is only the second major powertrain to enjoy double-digit growth in 2024, up 14.7% with 233,974 registrations in the first four months of the year.

This means the technology has had its best-ever first four months of the year, sitting over 30,000 units above last year's figure. Its market share improved accordingly, up 1.2pp to 24.7% last month. In the year-to-date, the hybrid market share enjoyed a significant increase, surging to 24.9% from 23.4% in the first four months of 2023.

Dazzling diesel

Diesel vehicles recorded the second-highest year-on-year growth last month, with 46,317 deliveries up 28.2%. This meant the powertrain accounted for 19.1% of the new-car market in April, jumping 1.3pp.

Across the first four months of 2024, 177,771 diesel registrations were recorded, an increase of 9.5%. This is the powertrain's best start to a year since 2021.

This resulted in a marginal increase in market share, up 0.3pp to 19% and overtaking EVs share by 0.8pp. This is compared to the first four months of 2023, where the plug-in market accounted for 20% of all deliveries, with diesel sitting at 18.7%.

Petrol improvement

Petrol saw improved volumes in April, with 90,729 registrations up 18.6%. In the year-to-date, deliveries increased 7.5%, thanks to 349,312 units. This was the powertrain’s best performance since 2020.

However, petrol suffered a drop in market share, taking 37.3% in April, down 0.4pp. A similar trend could be seen in the year-to-date, with a decline of 0.2pp to 37.2%.

ICE bounces back

Despite a decline in March, the internal-combustion engine (ICE) market, composed of petrol and diesel vehicles, bounced back in April. With both powertrains posting a significant increase in demand, registrations jumped 21.6% to 137,046 units. This was shown in the ICE market share, up 0.9pp year on year to 56.4%.

In the year-to-date, the ICE market achieved its best result since 2021, with 527,083 deliveries up 8.1%. Yet, its market share only increased by 0.1pp to 56.2%.

The ‘others’ category recorded 1,186 registrations in March, an increase of 12.3%. However, this only equated to 130 more units. In the first four months of 2024, the category surged 25.4% to 5,649 deliveries. This resulted in a 0.7% market share, up 0.2pp on April 2023.  

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