Market developments

    Passenger car market in Germany

    2020 was the most exceptional year in the history of the German passenger car market — for all types of ownership and for manufacturers of every type of drive.

    2020 was the most exceptional year in the history of the German passenger car market — for all types of ownership and for manufacturers of every type of drive.

    2020 saw lowest number of new registrations since reunification

    2020 was a turbulent year in the German passenger car market. The annual balance sheet shows a new registration level of 2.9 million new vehicles, 19% fewer than in the previous year – the lowest level of new registrations ever in reunified Germany. The year was marked by the impact of the coronavirus: While new registrations fell by 35% in the first half of the year, the decline in the second half was only 3%. The government intervention to contain the pandemic was a key factor in this development. During the first lockdown, which began on March 22 and was relaxed from May 6 onward, new registrations slumped, with the 61% drop in April the biggest ever in the German car market. The market did not regain its footing until the economic stimulus package took effect (including reduced sales tax and a larger financial incentive for EVs). However, it was not until the fourth quarter that a positive result was achieved. This, in turn, was 1% above the good result of the final quarter of the previous year. The end of the year even saw the strongest December ever in the German passenger car market, with 311,000 new registrations.

    Ownership

    In particular, the reduced sales tax in the second half of the year had a massive impact on ownership numbers among new registrations. In the first half of the year, the development of new private and commercial registrations was almost the same, with a drop of 36 and 34%, respectively.

    From July onwards, these developments then moved in different directions. While private owners registered 14% more new vehicles in the third and fourth quarters than in the previous year, the number of new commercial registrations fell by 11%. This was due to private owners reacting more to the reduction in sales tax.

    Powertrains

    In 2020, the German passenger car market received a boost from the change in drive types. While the number of new ICE vehicles sold fell by one million, new registrations of passenger cars with alternative drive systems rose by almost 420,000 vehicles.

    Growth was particularly strong for BEVs (207%) and PHEVs (342%). The higher environmental incentive, which took effect from the second half of the year following the adoption of the economic stimulus package, had a special impact. While the volume of new registrations of electric passenger cars (BEVs, PHEVs, and fuel cells) rose by 97% in the first half of the year, this momentum accelerated to 392% in the second half. In 2020, CO₂ regulation also had a strong impact, as manufacturers were not allowed to exceed average CO₂ emissions of around 95 grams per kilometer driven in 95% of their fleet.

    Manufacturing countries

    Vehicles from German brands continue to be highly desirable. In 2020, their market share was 69.1%. In absolute terms, two million new vehicles bearing a German logo were registered.

    With 283,300 new vehicles registered, French manufacturers continue to be highly popular among importers. Their market volume fell by 18%, roughly in line with the market as a whole, while their market share rose slightly from 9.6 to 9.7%. With 244,400 new vehicles, Japanese manufacturers sold slightly fewer passenger cars: Their sales fell by 22%, reducing their market share to 8.3% (previous year: 8.6%). After Korean manufacturers exceeded 200,000 new vehicle imports for the first time in 2019, their sales fell below this mark in 2020. At 171,100 passenger cars (-15%), their volume was on a par with 2016, while their market share increased slightly from 5.6 to 5.9%. Sales of Italian brands were solid: At 95,200 passenger cars, their sales were only 1% below the previous year's level. As a result, they increased their market share from 2.7 to 3.3%.

    Vehicle segments

    Despite the turbulent course of the year, SUVs and off-road vehicles were able to consolidate their dominant position among the segments. At 18%, the number of new registrations fell slightly less sharply than the market as a whole. Their market share thus rose from 31.3 to 31.8%.

    The biggest leap in market share was made by small cars, the market volume of which fell by just 9%, resulting in a rise in their market share from 13.5 to 15.1%.

    Alexander Fritz
    Economic Intelligence

    Alexander Fritz

    Automotive forecasts, production and export statistics, CO2 emissions, electromobility, structural analyses

    Read on