German car market shrinks by 19 percent

The 2020 auto year was the second worst since reunification. Only one car manufacturer was able to increase its sales significantly from a low level.

A Tesla Model S refuel.

Dhe car market in Germany shrank by 19 percent last year due to the consequences of the Corona crisis. As the Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt (KBA) announced on Friday, the authorities registered around 2.918 million new registrations between January and December. That was about 690,000 vehicles less than in the previous year, when car buyers had registered just over 3.6 million new passenger cars. 2020 is the second worst year for the German car market since reunification. Only in 2010 – shortly after the global financial and economic crisis – there were fewer new registrations with 2.916 million cars.

However, there was also a one-off effect at the time, as the scrapping premium introduced as a reaction to the financial crisis had given the market a strong boost in 2009, but demand without a premium fell sharply again in the following year. The year 2020, which was shaped by the Covid 19 pandemic, ended with growth despite the tightening of exit restrictions before Christmas. According to the KBA, new passenger car registrations in December rose by around 10 percent to almost 311,400 vehicles compared to the same month last year.

Tesla and motorcycles stand out

While the overall market shrank, electrified vehicles grew strongly. The number of newly registered plug-in hybrids, whose batteries for the additional electric motor can be charged externally, has more than quadrupled. In the past twelve months, the authorities in Germany approved almost 200,500 plug-in hybrids. In the previous year it was a good 45,000 pieces. The number of new registrations for purely battery-powered cars tripled to a good 194,100 vehicles; in 2019 there were around 63,300 purely e-cars. In the meantime, partially electric or electrically powered cars have a combined market share of 13.6 percent. New registrations of gasoline and diesel cars each fell by around a third in absolute terms, with the two types of drive achieving shares of 47 and a good 28 percent, respectively.

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Almost all major car brands suffered more or less severe losses in the past year. The Fiat brand, which belongs to the American-Italian Fiat-Chrysler group, was able to keep its annual sales more or less stable with a minimal increase of 0.2 percent. The only manufacturer with an increase in sales at a low level was the American electric car manufacturer Tesla. Its registrations in this country rose by almost 56 percent to around 16,700 vehicles. In the previous year there were just over 10,700 cars. Manufacturers such as Dacia, Ford, Opel, Smart and Suzuki have shrunk more than the market. Car brands such as Mercedes, BMW, Mini, Jeep, Kia and Lexus recorded less severe losses than the overall market.

New registrations of commercial vehicles also fell in the past year. According to KBA, around 295,000 new trucks were registered, a good 14 percent fewer than in 2019. The number of motorcycles alone rose significantly, by around a third to around 222,000.