1 Introduction

The 2018/19 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 2017. 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

In 2017, new car registrations in the EU increased to 15.2 million, which is the highest level since 2007. During the economic crisis, sales had reached a low point in 2013, with 11.8 million sales. A notable exception to the upwards trend is the United Kingdom (UK), where new car registrations dropped by 6 % compared to 2016. As in previous years, by far the strongest growth in vehicle sales took place in the sport utility vehicle (SUV) segment. About 4.3 million new cars in 2017 were SUVs, more than 6 times as many as 15 years before. At the same time, small diesel, small gasoline, and medium-sized diesel vehicles – all with comparatively low CO2 emission values – lost more than 9 percentage points from 2015 to 2017. These relatively small vehicles were replaced by medium-sized gasoline vehicles and SUVs. The increase in the latter group was particularly problematic for fleet-average CO2 reductions, because SUVs had comparatively high CO2 emission values. (Fig. 1-1).

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 first decreased slowly, to 49 % in 2016, but then dropped more quickly, to 44 % in 2017. However, the market developments 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 47 % 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 33 % in December 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.


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, increased to 119 grams per kilometer (g/km) in 2017, which is 1 g/km higher than in the previous year (Tietge, 2018a). CO2 emissions and fuel consumption are directly linked, so the current level of emissions amounts to about 5 liters/100 km. As explained in the previous section, it is mostly the shift to larger vehicle segments, not merely the shift away from diesel, that explains this recent slowdown in fleet-average CO2 emission reductions (Mock, 2018a).

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.

In November 2017, the European Commission came forward with a regulatory proposal for CO2 emissions of new passenger cars and light commercial vehicles for the time period up to 2030 (Dornoff et al., 2018). The original proposal includes a fleet-wide CO2 reduction target of 15 % for 2025 and 30 % for 2030. As part of ongoing political negotiations, it is expected that the European Parliament and the Council (the EU member state governments) will strengthen the regulatory proposal, before it will get adopted – most likely – in early-2019.

For heavy-duty vehicles, the European Commission came forward with a regulatory proposal in May 2018. As for light-duty vehicles, it includes a CO2 reduction target of 15 % for 2025 and 30 % for 2030 (but with reference to a 2019 baseline) (Rodríguez and Delgado, 2018). Up until now, the EU remains the only major truck market in the world without a CO2 emission regulation (Muncrief, 2014). The proposed regulation would only cover the largest categories of trucks, but is likely to be amended by further regulations then covering smaller trucks as well as trailers.

To be in line with the EU’s climate protection target for 2030, the cars/vans and truck regulations would need to be strengthened, to include a CO2 reduction target of 40–50 % for 2030 (Fig. 1-2). In order to meet the Paris climate protection agreement, even higher reductions of up to 70 % for light-duty vehicles would be necessary by 2030 (Rodríguez, 2018).



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 2.7 % of all new car sales in 2017. Sales of hybrid-electric cars went up in particular in Spain, where the market share increased from 1.8 % in 2015 to 4.5 % in 2017. This is even higher than in the Netherlands (4.2 %), which used to be the EU’s leading country in terms of hybrid-electric car sales for many years. Toyota continues to dominate the market for hybrid-electric cars in Europe, with about 49 % of all new Toyota vehicles in 2017 being hybrid-electric.

In 2017, plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and battery-electric vehicles (BEV) made up about 1.4 % of vehicle registrations in the EU. This is a slight increase compared to the previous year. The market share is much higher in the case of BMW (5.8 %), which is currently the leading manufacturer in terms of electric vehicle sales within the EU. Renault-Nissan and Daimler, which rank second and third in terms of electric-vehicle market share, each sell only about 2 % of their new cars as electric. Outside the EU, sales of electric vehicles are particularly high in Norway. 39 % of new cars sold there in 2017 were electric, and an additional 13 % were hybrid-electric vehicles. Such high market shares are attributable at least in part to generous fiscal incentives provided by the Norwegian government.

A category of vehicle technology that has not received much public attention to date is eco-innovation technologies. Those are technologies that show CO2 reduction benefits in real-world driving that are not captured by the official test procedure. According to the current EU regulations, vehicle manufacturers can receive up to 7 g/km of credits for deploying eco-innovation technologies in their new car fleet. On average, the fleet-wide impact on CO2 emissions was close to zero in 2017. However, a total of 25 eco-innovation technologies has been approved by the European Commission – all of which are now available for market deployment. For individual vehicles, the impact of eco-innovation technologies was up to 4 g/km, as Fig. 1-3 shows (Tietge, 2018b). With further deployment, it is therefore to be expected that eco-innovation technologies will lower the CO2 fleet averages and will provide an important means for manufacturers to meet their 2021 regulatory CO2 targets.

Key technical parameters

The average mass of new cars in the EU increased again in 2017, to 1,395 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 1,470 and 1,580 kg respectively. In contrast, customers in the Netherlands opted for significantly lighter cars, with an average weight of 1,294 kg.

The average engine power increased to 97 kW in 2017, 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. Since September 2018, the WLTP applies to all new vehicles. For RDE it will be another year before it applies 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 2017 emitted about 42 % more CO2 under everyday driving conditions than advertised by vehicle manufacturers (Tietge et al., 2017). 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 (Dornoff et al., 2018).

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 package #4 was adopted in May 2017, extending testing to in-use vehicles and slightly lowering the conformity factor for NOx to 1.43 from 2020 on (Mock, 2018b).

In the meantime, by making use of remote sensing instruments, the picture of the on-road emissions performance of the current vehicle fleet is becoming clearer (Dallmann and Borken, 2018). As part of a project funded by the Swiss government, researchers from all across Europe pooled their remote sensing measurements, resulting in a database of close to one million vehicle records (Sjödin et al., 2018). With such a high number of measurement results, it now becomes possible to break down the analysis of fleet emissions by manufacturer or even to the individual vehicle model level. Fig. 1-4 shows on-road NOx emission levels of Euro 6 vehicles by manufacturer group and fuel type (Bernard et al., 2018). The diesel vehicles of all manufacturers exceed the regulatory limit of 0.08 g/km in real-world driving, with exceedances of up to 15 times for some manufacturers. Emission levels of gasoline vehicles are generally below or only slightly above the respective regulatory limit of 0.06 g/km, even under real-world driving conditions.