More and morehistoric vehicles are running on German roads. At the turn of the year 254,053 passenger cars had “H” registration plates. This was almost 10 per cent up on the previous year. In total Germany has around 285,000 vehicles with H-plates – alongside passenger cars they include motorcycles, commercial vehicles, tractors and other vehicles. These special plates are issued for historic vehicles that are at least 30 years old.
“The figures show that the Germans are becoming more enthusiastic about historic vehicles all the time. People are fond of these vehicles that represent a slice of cultural history deserving special protection,” explained Matthias Wissmann, President of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA). Genuine historic vehicles can be recognised by their H-plates (H for “historic vehicle”). Yet H-registered cars still make up less than 0.6 per cent, i.e. a very small proportion, of the total number of passenger cars on German roads, which exceeds 43 million. Furthermore, these vehicles cover far fewer kilometres per year than other passenger cars. Wissmann therefore spoke against restrictions for vehicles with H-plates: “Historic vehicles are a tiny minority that should be preserved. Banning them from environmental protection zones would be out of all proportion, and such measures would do little to improve the air quality. Excluding historic vehicles from inner city areas would reduce them to mere museum pieces.”
The VW Beetle still tops the rankings of H-registered models: 27,002 Beetles had H-plates on 1 January 2013 (+0.5 per cent). Second place goes to the Mercedes W123 sedan, which rolled off the production lines almost 2.4 million times between 1975 and 1986. At the beginning of 2013 a total of 8,869 Mercedes W123 with H-plates were registered (+50 per cent) – at present the figure is climbing rapidly because many of these cars are reaching the age of 30. Next in the rankings come two more Mercedes-Benz cars: the “SL” of the 107 series (8,048 vehicles) has increased its numbers by 13 per cent. The “Stroke 8” takes fourth place (7,145 units). The Porsche 911/912 remains in fifth place: the number of 911s and 912s registered with H-plates rose by nearly 19 per cent to 6,489 vehicles. In 2012 larger increases were also seen in the number of historic VW buses (incl. VW vans), which rose by almost 23 per cent to 4,418 units.
The Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) regularly compiles detailed statistics on H-registered vehicles on behalf of the VDA. Around 61 per cent of all registered passenger cars that are over 30 years old bear H-plates. Certain exceptions are made especially for these vehicles, such as being allowed to enter environmental protection zones. Apart from the minimum age of 30 years, the vehicles have to be in excellent technical condition and must not have been significantly altered since their production.