Sales of petrol cars rise in the EU

Eurostat reported last year on the trends in passenger car stocks and new registrations in the European Union (EU). In 2017, Luxembourg had the highest number of cars per inhabitant in the EU, with 670 cars per 1000 inhabitants. Despite an increase over previous years, cars powered by alternative fuels, including hybrid cars, only made up a small share of the fleet of passenger cars in the EU in 2017. This is reflected by the share of cars powered by alternative fuels being low among newly registered cars.

Overall, the passenger car fleet in almost all EU member states has grown over the last five years. The highest number of cars per inhabitant was recorded in Luxembourg, followed by Italy (2016 data), Finland and Malta. In 2017, Poland had by far the highest share of passenger cars older than 20 years, followed by Estonia and Finland.

Preferences for petrol or diesel passenger cars vary across the EU member states. Among the member states for which recent data are available, cars with petrol engines make up the majority of registered cars in most countries; diesel cars dominate in only ten member states. When looking at petrol and diesel engines together, medium-sized engines dominated the car fleet in most EU member states; however, in Hungary and Malta the smallest engines dominated.

Preferences for whether a new passenger car should be powered by a petrol or diesel engine vary across the member states. For the 21 member states for which detailed data are available, 16 registered a higher petrol share; this is a change from the past, when a majority of member states recorded a higher diesel share.

In 2017, the highest shares of petrol cars among the new registrations were noted in the Netherlands (80.0%), Estonia (74.8%), Finland (68.7%), Denmark (64.4%), Malta (62.8%), Germany (57.7%), the United Kingdom (57.6%), Cyprus (56.9%), Latvia (55.6%), Hungary (54.3%), Poland (53.8%), Slovenia (52.7%), Belgium (52.1%) and France (51.6 %). In contrast, the highest shares of diesel cars among new passenger cars were recorded in Croatia (76.1%), Lithuania (68.5%), Romania (67.3%), Ireland (65.6%), Portugal (62.1%) and Spain (50.7%).

EEA reported as well that for the first year since 2009, in 2017 more petrol cars (53% of the new fleet) were sold than diesel ones (45%). The share of diesel cars decreased by 5 percentage points compared to 2016 and the share of petrol cars increased accordingly. As diesel cars are generally more fuel-efficient than petrol cars, the observed shift negatively affects the average emissions. In addition, the engine power of passenger cars has been increasing since 2011 (by 18% for petrol cars and 12.5% for diesel cars). More powerful vehicles tend to have higher CO₂ emissions.

Furthermore, reported last year that petrol expanded its market share from 56.7% to 59.5% in the second quarter of 2019 across the entire continent. By contrast, the number of diesel cars registered across the EU decreased by 16.4% to 1.3 million units, with diesel’s market share falling from 36.3% in the second quarter of 2018 to 31.3% in 2019.

In May 2020, Eurostat plans to update statistical trends in passenger car stocks over the last two years.

Compiled by Reinhold Pape

Sources: EU#Overview

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