6 Apr 18

The only way is down for diesel across Europe

Sales reports for the UK, France and Germany in the month of March have one thing in common: diesel sales continue their decline.


French diesel sales in March 2018 suffered even more than last year, dropping to a 40% record low, a 7% decline. The diesel market share hasn't been this low since 1998. The decline started in 2012, when 73% of new car registrations were for diesel cars. This year, however, the hitherto stable decline seems to be accelerating and there are no signs for that to change.

The only way is petrol

Electric vehicles and hybrids may be the talk of the town but drivers aren't following and their sales aren't taking off. ICE cars in 2018 still hold the same market share as before (94% in the first three months of this year). For the most part, diesel sales were turned into petrol sales (now 53% market share), EVs and hybrids gaining very little in terms of sales numbers.


New car registrations in Germany lost 3.4% in March 2018 compared to last year. German diesel sales continued their downwards spiral, too, after a German court ruled that cities have the authority to ban diesel vehicles.

For the whole German market, diesel sales fell 25%, resulting in a 31.4% share of the market. In Germany, too, petrol recovered a large part of this decline, gaining 9% to a 64% market share.

Premium and volume share blows

Premium makes in particular took a blow. Audi fell by 13%, BMW and Mercedes both lost 5.4%. Volvo suffered a 25% sales slump.

They weren't the only ones to end the month of March in the red. Volume brands like Opel (-24%), Renault (-16%), Toyota (-6.9%) and Citroën (-5.1%) all lost ground as well.

Some did better: Hyundai won 11%, Nissan 8.4%, Peugeot 8.1%, Seat 4.8% and Skoda 3.9%.

United Kingdom

The UK car market dropped 16% to 474,069 new vehicles in March 2018. Diesel sales decreased 37% to 153,59 vehicles. The market share for the discredited fuel has reached a 43.5% low.

In general, March is the top-selling month of the year in the UK because it is one of only two months when new number plates are issued. After record-breaking months in 2015 and 2016, this was no longer the case in 2017 because of uncertainty surrounding Brexit and possible future green levies on diesel cars. The decrease continues this year.

Hard blows

Some carmakers suffered more than others. Fiat plunged 34%, Nissan 33%, Ford and Citroën both 30%, Vauxhall 20%. Renault (-24%), Peugeot (-15%), VW (-4.1%) and Toyota (-8%) all fell as well.

Things look better for Seat, which registered a 5.6% growth, Honda (+2.2%) and Hyundai (+0.3%).

More details on the UK market in March

Image: Vauxhall dealer in Cambridge

Authored by: Benjamin Uyttebroeck