German registrations start slow recovery in March

08 April 2021

New-car registrations in Germany increased 35.9% in March, according to the latest figures from the Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt (KBA).

The figure was inflated due to the country’s first COVID-19 lockdown closing dealerships from mid-March in the previous year. However, at that time, registrations performed well compared to other countries. While Spain, France and Italy posted losses of 69.3%, 72.2% and 85.4%, respectively, Germany only saw a decline of 37.7%.

At the end of the first quarter, new registrations totalled 656,452 units, down 6.4% compared to the first three months of last year. This is despite dealerships being closed. The country's market also suffered due to a VAT increase, with taxes rising from 16% to 19% at the beginning of the year. Autovista Group estimates that around 40,000 registrations were pulled forward into December last year as a result.

Brand increases

All domestic brands showed positive growth in March 2021, the strongest being Smart with a 304.4% increase. Double-digit increases were recorded by Opel (75.1%), Mini (58%), Porsche (55%), Volkswagen Passenger Cars (VW) (39.1%), Mercedes (36.7%), Audi (17.6%) and BMW (17%). VW claimed the largest share of new registrations, taking 19.3% of the market.

Alfa Romeo showed the most significant increase among the imported brands, up by 114.6%. Fellow Stellantis stablemate Peugeot saw sales grow 78.4% while Tesla enjoyed a 63.6% boost. However, Honda (-33.3%), Mitsubishi (-30%) and Jaguar (-10%) were among those to see sales decline in the month.

Electric closes the gap

In terms of fuel type, the market for battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) achieved a significant increase of 191.4%, with a market share of 10.3%. With German car brands such as VW and BMW increasing their focus on electrification, there now seems to be an appetite for the technology amongst buyers. Plug-in hybrid (PHEV) models achieved a 12.2% market share, with sales increasing 277.5% in the month.

The swing to electric drives is more evident when internal combustion engines (ICE) sales are considered. New registrations of passenger cars with petrol engines increased by 7.1%. However, the market share was just 39.4%. The sale of diesel models continued to decline, with 5% fewer in March 2021 for a 22.1% market share. For the second successive month, diesel sales were outpaced by those of hybrids. When including standard and PHEV models, this powertrain type took 27.8% of the market.

The figures, therefore, show that 38.1% of registrations in Germany during the last month were non-ICE models. This is just 1.3% below the market share of petrol in March. It may not be long until sales of these vehicles outpace those of more traditional powertrains.

Germany extended its lockdown period to 18 April following a spike in infection cases. However, the Federation of Motor Trades and Repairs (ZDK) argued that vehicle dealers should be allowed to reopen fully. The group’s main argument is that while a hairdresser, with a floor space of 10m2, is allowed to have one customer, car showrooms with a floor space of 500m2 cannot open.