1 Introduction

The 2016/17 edition of European Vehicle Market Statistics offers a statistical portrait of passenger car, light-commercial, and heavy-duty vehicle fleets in the European Union (EU) from 2001 to 2015. As in previous editions, the emphasis is on vehicle technologies, fuel consumption, and emissions of greenhouse gases and other air pollutants.

The following pages give a concise overview of data in subsequent chapters and also summarize the latest regulatory developments in the EU. More comprehensive tables are included in the annex, along with information on sources.

Number of vehicles

After declining for several years, new passenger car registrations in the EU increased to about 13.7 million in 2015. That number is 12% below where it was before the economic crisis, when some 15.6 million cars were sold annually in the EU, but at the same time it represents 1 million more vehicles sold than just one year before, in 2014. The decline in vehicle sales after the economic crisis was most pronounced for the southern EU Member States. In Spain, the number of new car registrations has fallen by about 50% since 2007. But vehicle sales in the region are rising again; 2015 registrations in Spain were about 20% above the previous year and at the highest level since 2008.

By far the strongest growth in vehicle sales took place in the sport utility vehicle (SUV) segment. More than 3 million new cars in 2015 were SUVs, or about three times as many as 10 years before.

The European market remains centered on a handful of countries. Some 75% of all new passenger car registrations occur in the five largest markets (Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, and Spain). But in terms of makes and manufacturers, the market is much more diverse: the top seven brands capture less than 50% of the market.

This is very different from the heavy-duty vehicle market. Only five manufacturer groups dominate EU truck sales. Together they account for nearly 100% of all new vehicle registrations (0.4 million vehicles in 2015). In contrast to some other heavy-duty vehicle markets, the same manufacturer usually makes both the vehicle and its engine in Europe. Therefore, the heavy-duty engine market in Europe is also dominated by the same five manufacturers.

In 2016 the European Commission provided evidence for cartel behavior among heavy-duty truck manufacturers in Europe, finding them guilty of price fixing as well as delaying the introduction of emission-reduction technologies and issuing a record penalty of € 2.93 billion.

Internationally, total vehicle sales (passenger cars and commercial vehicles) increased at a somewhat slower pace than in 2014. While Turkey, Mexico, South Korea, the EU, India, the United States, and China saw robust growth, sales were flat or declined in Australia, Canada, Malaysia, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Brazil, and Russia. Total vehicle sales in Turkey increased by 25%, while vehicle sales in Russia dropped by 35% in 2015. Over the past five years much of the growth was concentrated in just two countries, China and the United States, which together accounted for 50% of global vehicle sales. Growth outside the top 15 markets accelerated: car and truck sales in those smaller markets increased by 3%, while the average vehicle sales growth rate in the top 15 markets was closer to 2%. Emerging market economies with very high growth in the past few years – Brazil, Russia, and Thailand – continued to experience declines in sales in 2015.

Fuel consumption and CO2 emissions

The official level of average carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from new passenger cars in the EU, as measured in the laboratory test procedure, fell to 120 grams per kilometer (g/km) in 2015 (EEA, 2016). This is significantly lower than the 130 g/km target set by the EU CO2 regulation for 2015. CO2 emissions and fuel consumption are directly linked, so that the current level of emissions amounts to about 5.0 liters/100 km.

In 2012, the European Commission formally proposed an average CO2 emissions target of 95 g/km for 2020, which in terms of fuel consumption equates to about 3.8 liters/100 km. Details of the proposal had been under discussion in the European Parliament and the European Council in the first half of 2013, with the European Parliament proposing some changes to the European Commission document, including a 2025 target range of 68–78 g/km of CO2. In November 2013, a final compromise was reached, and the regulation was formally adopted in March 2014.

Under the new EU regulation, only 95% of the new vehicle fleet must comply with the 95 g/km target by 2020 (Mock, 2014a). After one year of phase-in, from 2021 all new vehicles will be taken into account for calculating manufacturers’ fleet averages. CO2 emission targets for every manufacturer are adjusted for the average weight of their specific vehicles, so that manufacturers of heavier vehicles get a less stringent target to meet. In percentage terms, the required reduction is the same for every manufacturer: 27% from 2015 to 2020/21. So-called super-credits for vehicles with CO2 emissions lower than 50 g/km are also taken into account: these vehicles count double in 2020, with the multiplier factor reduced to 1.0 by 2023 (Diaz et al., 2016).

Light-commercial vehicles (i.e., commercial vehicles below 3.5 metric tons gross vehicle weight) have their own CO2 emission standard. The 2017 target requires an average fleet emission level of 175 g/km – a level that was reached in 2013. A new regulation setting a 2020 target of 147 g/km was adopted in February 2014. As for passenger cars, vehicle weight is taken into account when calculating manufacturer-specific CO2 targets.

For heavy-duty vehicles, the on-road fuel consumption (and thereby also CO2 emission) level of new tractor-trailer trucks in the EU has remained fairly constant since the early 2000s (Muncrief and Sharpe, 2015). Over the last few years, the European Commission has developed VECTO, a computer simulation tool to determine CO2 emission levels of new heavy-duty vehicles. The Commission expects that this new tool will provide greater transparency and better comparability for CO2 emission performance and fuel consumption of trucks and buses. The EU is the only major truck market in the world without a CO2 emission regulation (Muncrief, 2014). However, as part of its communication on de-carbonizing the road vehicle sector, the European Commission announced in July 2016 to work towards the introduction of mandatory effciency standards for new heavy-duty vehicles, with the objective of “curbing emissions well before 2030” (EC, 2016).


The vast majority of Europe’s new cars remain powered by gasoline or diesel motors. Diesel cars account for 52% of all new registrations in 2015. This is despite the recent “Dieselgate” scandal and differs notably from other major car markets. The U.S., Chinese, and Japanese markets are all dominated by gasoline-powered cars, with diesels playing almost no role. One market of note that has embraced diesel technology, however, is India, where the diesel share was around 50% in 2015.

The market share of hybrid-electric vehicles in the EU was 1.5% of all new car sales in 2015. In the Netherlands (3.3%) and France (2.2%) hybrid vehicles make up a much larger share of the market than in the rest of EU Member States, with fewer hybrid vehicles sold in the Netherlands than in previous years, due to a change in the national vehicle taxation scheme. More than one-fourth of all new Toyotas sold in the EU were hybrid-electric. For comparison, in Japan more than 19% of all new car sales in 2015 were hybrids, and in the U.S. the share of hybrid- electric passenger cars was around 5%.

Plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and battery-electric vehicles (BEV) make up about 1.1% of vehicle registrations in the EU, with notable differences among the Member States. In the Netherlands, 8.8% of all new sales were PHEVs in 2015, and another 0.9% BEVs. This is more than twice as many electric vehicles as in the previous year. One underlying reason for the relatively high sales is the Netherlands’ CO2-based vehicle taxation scheme, which features generous rebates for vehicles that emit less than 50 g/km of CO2. Although they are not members of the EU, we also include data on Norway, Switzerland and Turkey in the EU Pocketbook. Particularly for electric vehicles, Norway is of great interest. PHEVs and BEVs accounted for more than 22% of all new car sales in Norway in 2015, and in the first half of 2016 their market share further increased to 26%. This makes Norway the world’s leading market for electric vehicles (in terms of market share, not absolute number of vehicles). Underlying reasons are, again, fiscal incentives provided by the Norwegian government.

Key technical parameters

The average mass of new cars in the EU decreased slightly, to 1,385 kg in 2015. Ten years earlier, the average weight was around 1,340 kg. As in previous years, both the German and Swedish new car fleets were significantly above the EU average, at 1,460 and 1,567 kg respectively. In contrast, French, Italian, and Dutch consumers opted for significantly lighter cars (1,316, 1,302, and 1,335 kg respectively).

Average vehicle engine power, engine displacement, and average number of cylinders of new vehicles remained about constant in 2015.

Other emissions and on-road

In September 2014, the Euro 6 emission standard entered into force for newly type-approved vehicle models. In September 2015 it took effect for all new vehicles in the EU. In 2015, about 59% of all new car sales were Euro 6 vehicles. Euro 6 sets emission limits that range from 68% (gasoline carbon monoxide) to 96% (diesel particulates) lower than those established under Euro 1 in 1992. For nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from diesel cars the limits were reduced by 68% from Euro 4 to Euro 6. However, vehicle tests indicate that the “real-world” performance – that is, achieved when driving on-road under normal conditions – is much worse than suggested by the official values (measured in the laboratory using the NEDC driving cycle).

In 2014, an ICCT meta-analysis of on-road driving data for Euro 6-equivalent diesel vehicles concluded that, on average, the vehicles tested showed NOx emission levels that were higher than the Euro 6 limit by a factor of 7 (Franco et al., 2014). As a result, in the EU the on-road NOx level (on a per-kilometer basis) of a modern Euro VI heavy-duty truck is significantly lower than that of an average Euro 6 diesel passenger car.

In September 2015 Volkswagen’s use of an illegal defeat device in some of its vehicles was revealed, and governments around the world initiated their own on-road emission testing programs for diesel cars. Those investigations have shown that the use of defeat devices is a common practice among vehicle manufacturers. The German Ministry for Transport had 51 Euro 5 and Euro 6 diesel passenger cars tested and concluded that all manufacturers were found to be using some sort of defeat device (BMVI, 2016). At the same time, large differences between vehicle models were uncovered, with the on-road NOx emission levels of, for example, the Renault Kadjar, Suzuki Vitara, Land Rover, Dacia Sandero and Opel Zafira models exceeding the laboratory limit by factors of 11 to 18. On the other hand, NOx levels of the Euro 6 versions of many VW and Audi models were below the regulatory limit, even when tested on the road. This supports the notion that the technology for clean diesels (i.e., vehicles whose average emission levels lie below Euro 6 emission limits under real-world driving) already exists.

Often even small changes in test conditions can result in significantly different emission test results. For example, the Euro 6 Opel Zafira model tested for the German Ministry for Transport was found to have a NOx emission level of 74 milligram per kilometer (mg/km) during laboratory testing, which is in line with the requirements of the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC). When changing the test temperature to 10°C instead of the 20°–30°C range specified by the NEDC for type-approval testing, while performing the same test in the same laboratory, NOx emissions increased to 523 mg/km. When driving the Zafira over the NEDC driving profile on the road, rather than in the test laboratory, the NOx level was found to increase to 913 mg/km.

The wording of the regulation regarding defeat devices in the EU is similar to that used in the U.S. regulation and only allows the use of defeat devices as an exception – for example, if required to protect the engine from damage. However, a major difference is that in the U.S. manufacturers must seek an exemption from the ban on use of a defeat device from the Environmental Protection Agency prior to the certification of a new vehicle model. As part of this application process, manufacturers must provide detailed technical evidence and prove that the use of a defeat device is unavoidable – that no feasible technical alternative exists that would allow control of the exhaust emission level under all driving conditions (Muncrief et al., 2016).

The European Commission has initiated the Real Driving Emissions (RDE) working group, which is preparing for the introduction of on-road testing with portable emissions measurement systems (PEMS) as part of the passenger-car type-approval process in the EU. In May 2015 the EU Member States agreed to introduce PEMS testing in addition to the already-required laboratory testing on a fixed driving cycle (the so-called RDE package #1). On-road testing for new diesel car types has begun in 2016 for monitoring purposes. From 2017 on, conformity factors will regulate how much higher vehicle emissions are allowed to be during on-road testing than during laboratory testing (RDE package #2). In early 2016 it was decided that these conformity factors will be 2.1 for 2017 and 1.5 for 2020. This means that from 2017 new diesel cars will be allowed to emit up to 80 mg/km of NOx during laboratory testing but 168 mg/km during an on-road test that is in line with the RDE requirements. From 2020 onwards the RDE on-road NOx emission limit will be 120 mg/km.

While RDE will allow coverage of a broader range of driving conditions during emissions testing, it currently still excludes cold-start emissions, which will be included in RDE package #3. It is planned to extend the RDE testing to cover not only prototype vehicles but also series vehicles for in-use conformity testing (RDE package #4).

In parallel to the RDE regulation, in January 2016 the European Commission came forward with a suggestion for the revision of the EU vehicle type- approval directive, aiming to introduce more transparency and independence into the process for testing vehicle emissions and enforcing vehicle emissions’ regulations in the EU (Franco, 2016).

For fuel consumption and CO2, an ICCT analysis of driving data from approximately 0.6 million vehicles in the EU concludes that there is an increasing discrepancy between official (laboratory) values and actual, on-road experience. In 2001 the offset was around 8%; by 2015 it had increased to around 36% of the official values for private cars, and as much as 45% for company cars (Tietge et al., 2015). This means that today’s private vehicles on average consume about 36% more fuel than manufacturers’ sales brochures, which are based on the official values, suggest. An in-depth analysis of the underlying reasons for the growing gap suggests that increasing exploitation of tolerances and flexibilities in laboratory testing are the main drivers of this growing discrepancy (ElementEnergy and ICCT, 2015).

The new Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP), with its more dynamic test cycle and tightened test procedure, should produce somewhat more realistic values. The WLTP was adopted in March 2014, and the European Commission is currently preparing its implementation for the type-approval of new cars in the European Union from September 2017 on (Mock, 2014b). A key aspect of the transition will be an appropriate conversion of existing CO2 targets and CO2-based taxation schemes from NEDC into WLTP.