The feature of yesterday's March car sales statistics for Germany which must give European carmakers serious pause for thought relates to the sudden unparalleled change in the type of car wanted by King buyer. No, it is not the on-going Crossover car buying spree. That too, as has been the case for months, remains a hot issue. But hotter still, signs are that growing numbers of Germany’s new car buyers are now beginning to drop all earlier thoughts of buying a diesel-powered car.
Germany’s car sales data for March, if taken at full face value, suggests that King buyer, alarmed by diesel horror stories and insinuations of outright future inner-city bans for all but the newest diesels, is dropping all earlier thoughts of buying a discredited diesel powered car.
Moreover, the message implied entirely by yesterday’s well-timed press release from Toyota Germany: hordes of Germany’s green thinking new car buyers have finally seen the light and are now starting to pile into Toyota hybrids in droves.
This is nonsense.
Conventional Toyota/Lexus hybrids, a segment ignored by all other European carmakers, accounted for a tiny and virtually exclusive 1.2 per cent of Germany’s 2-months new car sales.
What’s more, Toyota Germany paid a self-funded €3,000 incentive to German buyers of the company’s hybrids.
Outwardly, at least, Toyota’s March showing in Germany is impressive.
Its German March sales rose more than three times faster than Germany’s already fast expanding market.
Meanwhile, Germany’s diesel car sales share in March slumped to just 40.6 per cent – down almost 6 percentage points on March last year. In contrast, Toyota’s sales rose 37.3 per cent in March and jumped by a third in the first quarter.
Take Volkswagen, the auto industry’s enfant terrible after the seemingly never ending dieselgate fallout, as a comparison: It’s home sales in the same first quarter fell 4.3 per cent.
“The hybrid drive in particular proves to be a growth driver: over 40 per cent of all [Toyota German] customers now opt for the combination of a petrol engine and electric motor. [In Germany] the hybrid sales share of the new [Toyota] Crossover Coupé C-HR is currently 75 per cent; with the Crossover pioneer RAV4 it is almost 80 per cent”, Toyota said.
However, what yesterday’s outwardly deeply revealing German Toyota press release did not spell out is that its self-funded €3,000 German sales aid for anybody buying a Toyota hybrid came to a close March 31 this year.
It wouldn’t be far-fetched to presume that the March 31st deadline for pocketing the tempting €3,000 dealer hand-out for a Toyota hybrid has triggered a last minute rush from Toyota buyers.
But whether - in the absence of a tempting Toyota hybrid purchase incentive - some of Germany’s increasingly anxious diesel car users, evidently toying with the idea to jump ship, will trigger a repeat of Toyota’s March hybrid sales bounce this April and May remains to be seen.
Knowing full well that the recent hybrid sales rush may turn back to a trickle once the incentive tap is turned off, only today
Toyota Germany told AID that hybrid incentives will be reintroduced this second quarter.
In summary, it is safe to say that most of today’s German diesel deserters appear to be making the straight switch from diesel to petrol and certainly not yet to Toyota’s Prius-type hybrids.
After decades of diesel domination, the way the runes are read today, Germany, in less than a handful of years from now, will likely revert back to a plain and simple petrol-dominated car market.
Meanwhile, sizeable numbers of Germany’s loyal Toyota buyers, given tempting incentives, will continue to opt for the company’s hybrids.