1 Introduction

The 2017/18 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 2016. 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

By 2016, car sales in the EU had fully recovered from the economic crisis in previous years. New car registrations increased to 14.6 million, which is nearly the same level as in the years 2001–2007. Sales had reached a low point in 2011, with 13.1 million sales. In particular the Southern European countries were hit. In Spain, for example, fewer than half as many new vehicles were registered in 2012 as were registered in any one year from 2001 to 2007. But since 2014, sales in Spain and Italy are trending strongly upward again. As in previous years, by far the strongest growth in vehicle sales took place in the sport utility vehicle (SUV) segment. About 3.7 million new cars in 2016 were SUVs, more than 6 times as many as 15 years before.

In the aftermath of the Dieselgate scandal, sales of new diesel cars dropped significantly. In 2011–2012, about 55 % of newly registered cars in the EU were powered by diesel fuel, an all-time high. Since then, the market share of diesel has slowly decreased, to 49 % in 2016, but diesel shares continue to vary by member state. For example, in France, where the diesel market share used to be significantly higher than the EU average, the market share dropped from a high of 77 % in 2008 to 52 % by 2016. This decline in diesel car sales began before Dieselgate and is likely related to the fact that the French government is leveling out taxes on diesel and gasoline fuel. In Germany, on the other hand, the diesel market share remained stable over the past five years (at about 48 %) but began dropping noticeably towards the end of 2016, reaching a level of 38 % in August 2017. This recent decrease in diesel car sales is likely due to a loss in trust from consumers who are increasingly worried about the threat of diesel bans in urban areas. Italy is the only major European passenger car market that has not seen a decline in diesel shares since 2015 (Tietge, 2017).


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 via the type-approval test procedure, fell to 118 grams per kilometer (g/km) in 2016 (Şenzeybek et al., 2017). CO2 emissions and fuel consumption are directly linked, so the current level of emissions amounts to about 5 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 4 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. After one year of phase-in, from 2021 all new vehicles will be taken into account for calculating manufacturers’ fleet averages (Mock, 2014).

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 regulation setting a 2020 target of 147 g/km was adopted in February 2014.

For the end of 2017, it is expected that the European Commission will come forward with a regulatory proposal for CO2 emissions of new passenger cars and light commercial vehicles for the time period up to 2030. To be in line with the EU’s climate protection target for 2030, the required annual CO2 reduction rate between 2020 and 2030 would have to be about 9 %.

To reach future CO2 targets, vehicle manufacturers can, in principle, pursue two different strategies. They can exhaust the currently known potential of combustion engine technology before switching to electrified vehicles (plug-in hybrid, battery or fuel cell electric vehicles). Following this approach, a level of approximately 70 g/km of CO2 (according to the New European Driving Cycle [NEDC] testing procedure) could be reached, in a lower bound scenario at an extra cost of slightly above € 1,000 in 2025, compared to a 2014 baseline vehicle (Mock, 2016). Alternatively, manufacturers could transition to electrified vehicles earlier and reach the same 70 g/km target in 2025 for about € 350 less than if they first fully exhausted the potential of combustion engine technology. The required electric vehicles’ market share would be about 17 %, which is at the lower end of recent announcements made by vehicle manufacturers such as BMW, Daimler, and Volkswagen (IEA, 2017).

For heavy-duty vehicles, the on-road fuel consumption (and therefore also CO2 emission) level of new tractor-trailer trucks in the EU has remained fairly constant since the early 2000s (Muncrief, 2017). The EU remains the only major truck market in the world without a CO2 emission regulation (Muncrief, 2014). However, in May 2017 a regulation was adopted that will require the type approval of CO2 emissions from new heavy-duty trucks from January 2019 onwards (Rodríguez, 2017). In addition, the European Commission has announced that in early 2018 it will come forward with a regulatory proposal for mandatory efficiency standards for heavy-duty vehicles.



The vast majority of Europe’s new cars remain powered by gasoline or diesel motors. The market share of hybrid-electric vehicles in the EU was 1.8 % of all new car sales in 2016. Sales of hybrid-electric cars went up in particular in Spain, where the market share increased from 1.8 % in 2015 to 2.7 % in 2016. This is nearly as high as in the Netherlands (2.9 %), the EU’s leading country in terms of hybrid-electric car sales. Toyota continues to dominate the market for hybrid-electric cars in Europe, with about 40 % of all new Toyota vehicles in 2016 being hybrid-electric.

In 2016, plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and battery-electric vehicles (BEV) made up about 1 % of vehicle registrations in the EU. This is about the same level as in the previous year. The Netherlands remains the leading country for electric vehicle sales within the EU, with about 6 % of new cars registered in 2016 being electric. However, the share of electric vehicles dropped significantly compared to the previous year because tax incentives for electric vehicles in the Netherlands were reduced. Looking at manufacturers, BMW’s sales of electric vehicles in the EU doubled from 2015 to 2016, and about 4 % of new BMW cars registered are now electric drive. This is about twice as much as for Daimler and Renault-Nissan, which rank second and third in terms of electric-vehicle market share. Outside the EU, sales of electric vehicles are particularly high in Norway. 29 % of new cars sold there in 2016 were electric, and an additional 11 % were hybrid-electric vehicles. Such high market shares are attributable at least in part to generous fiscal incentives provided by the Norwegian government.

For heavy-duty vehicles, a variety of technologies to reduce CO2 emissions are in principle available on the market (Rodriguez et al., 2017). However, a number of market barriers currently prevent the large-scale deployment of these technologies (Sharpe, 2017). For a typical European 40-tonne long-haul truck, efficiency technologies can reduce CO2 emissions by 27 % by 2025 and 43 % by 2030 (Delgado et al., 2017). The necessary investments would pay back in terms of fuel cost savings within less than 5 years (Norris and Escher, 2017).

Key technical parameters

The average mass of new cars in the EU increased again in 2016, to 1,392 kg. That is about 10 % higher than 15 years before. Both the German and Swedish new car fleets were significantly above the EU average, at 1,468 and 1,562 kg respectively. In contrast, customers in the Netherlands opted for significantly lighter cars, with an average weight of 1,303 kg.

The average engine power increased to 95 kW in 2016, which is nearly 30 % more than 15 years before. At the same time, the average engine displacement has continued to decrease, and now is about 7 % smaller than in 2001.

Other emissions and on-road

On September 1, 2017, the new Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP) as well as the Real Driving Emissions (RDE) test procedure came into effect for new vehicle types. It will be another one year until the WLTP applies to all new vehicles and another two years for the RDE to apply to all new vehicles.

The WLTP is expected to reduce the gap between official and real-world CO2 emissions of new vehicles. On average, a new car in 2016 emitted about 42 % more CO2 under everyday driving conditions than advertised by vehicle manufacturers (Tietge et al., 2016). In 2001, the gap was only around 9 %, but it has increased continuously since then. An in-depth analysis of the underlying reasons for the growing gap suggests that the exploitation of tolerances and flexibilities in laboratory testing are the main drivers of this growing discrepancy (Stewart et al., 2015). The WLTP is expected to reduce the real-world gap for CO2, but will likely introduce new loopholes. CO2 standards therefore should be complemented by a not-to-exceed limit for real-world CO2 emission levels and enhanced enforcement provisions (Mock and German, 2015).

The development of the RDE regulation was divided into several sub-packages. In May 2015, the EU Member States agreed to introduce on-road testing with portable emissions measurement systems (PEMS) as part of the passenger-car type-approval process (the so-called RDE package #1). On-road testing for new vehicle types began in 2016 for monitoring purposes. From September 2017 on, the RDE emission limits became binding for new vehicle types. Conformity factors were introduced that 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 the initial phase starting in 2017 (Euro 6d-Temp) and 1.5 from 2020 on (Euro 6d). This means that currently, measured new diesel car NOx emissions can be up to 80 mg/km during laboratory testing but as high as 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. As part of the RDE package #3, it was decided in December 2016 to also regulate particulate number (PN) from vehicles equipped with gasoline direct-injection engines and cold-start emissions for all vehicles, which had been excluded from RDE testing (Mock and Cuenot, 2017). RDE testing can still be performed with pre-production vehicles only. This is amended with RDE package #4, currently under discussion, by allowing type approval authorities as well as independent third parties to carry out inuse conformity testing on in-service vehicles. It is expected that RDE package #4 will be adopted by late 2017.

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 emission regulations in the EU (Franco, 2016).

Strengthened testing procedures as well as improved enforcement from the national type approval authorities as well as the European Commission are urgently needed, as recent test results show (Baldino et al., 2017). Since end of 2015, a number of government agencies across Europe began to systematically test diesel cars for their emission levels. On average, for 541 diesel cars tested by, among others, the German, French, British, and Dutch governments, the average ratio between actual emissions vs. the emission limit was 4.1 for Euro 5 vehicles and 4.5 for Euro 6 vehicles. The difference between individual vehicle models is particularly remarkable, with some Euro 6 diesel cars emitting less NOx than the limit of 80 mg/km while others exceed the regulatory limit by a factor of 12. Only 10 % of tested Euro 6 vehicles would meet the Euro 6 limits on the road.