By on October 12, 2018

The European new car market is in a period of extreme flux. Once-dominant diesels are on the way out thanks to new regulations, looming bans, and cancelled tax incentives, with electrified vehicles poised to take over the high-MPG role.

But not everything’s rosy in the clean, green market on the other side of the Atlantic. A new, more accurate way of measuring fuel economy went into effect last month, and governments — as well as automakers — suddenly realized certain vehicles weren’t as clean as initially thought. Looking to buy a plug-in hybrid in the UK? Say goodbye to that juicy government incentive.

As of November 12th, the UK government will no longer hand over grants of 2,500 pounds ($3,295) to PHEV buyers. Meanwhile, those looking to buy in the former top-tier category (electric vehicles, or PHEVs capable of travelling 70 miles in EV mode) will see their grant slashed from 4,500 pounds to 3,500 ($4,617).

As Autocar reports, industry types are livid.

Created in 2011, a popular year for government green programs the world over, the grant’s disappearance is all about a change in focus. The program “helped the plug-in hybrid market become more established, and will now focus its support on zero-emission models like pure electric and hydrogen fuel cell cars,” the UK government said.

Naturally, there’s a run on popular plug-ins like the top-selling Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, with consumers (and especially fleets) hoping to get their hands on one before they’re forced to pay full price. The same rush to buy was seen in Ontario in August, where Nissan Leaf sales spiked ahead of the cancellation of that province’s massive EV subsidy.

The September 1st switch from Europe’s New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) to the Worldwide harmonized Light vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP) led to several automakers pulling their plug-ins from the market. More accurate fuel economy and emissions testing forced many back to the drawing board.

Speaking to Automotive News Europe,  JATO Dynamics analyst Felipe Munoz said plug-in hybrid sales are expected to crater for the rest of the year. At the end of August, European PHEV sales were up 48 percent, year to date.

[Image: Mitsubishi]

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15 Comments on “Forget Diesel – Tough Times Now Lie Ahead for the European Plug-in Crowd...”

  • avatar

    Don’t kid yourselves. Tough times lay ahead in the form of a multiyear significsnt contraction in new vehicle sales across the board and across almost every market (especially developed ones), despite whatever out-of-their-a$$ prognostications macroeconomic expert Jack Baruth and Blue Genie Bark Maruth make.

    • 0 avatar

      Good, then maybe folks will finally start investing in their retirement fund instead of blowing hundreds a month of a stupid new car.

      “Northwestern Mutual’s 2018 Planning & Progress Study, which surveyed 2,003 adults, found that 21 percent of Americans have nothing saved at all for their golden years, and a third of Americans have less than $5,000. To put that into perspective, it means that 31 percent of U.S. adults could last only a few months on their savings if they had to retire tomorrow.”

      “Young people who haven’t had as much time to save aren’t skewing the statistics, either. The report found that 33 percent of boomers have $25,000 or less in retirement savings.”

      • 0 avatar


        Big hat no cattle. That sums up nicely the car buying public. Broke people looking good.

        • 0 avatar

          “Broke people looking good” – that sums up the tragic story of that limo crash in NY. Twenty feet of rolling bling on a rotten chassis. That’s our country, folks.

      • 0 avatar

        I’ve got a decent chunk stashed away, but I hope to not be retired for very long anyway.

      • 0 avatar

        Disclaimer: I didn’t click on that link yet, Cactuar. But one depressing aspect of this situation is the implication for people who are “ants” rather than “grasshoppers” but who also aren’t rich. At some point, a chunk of their savings is going to be siphoned away via legislation either to the influential rich or to people who haven’t saved. It’s particularly dire for Gen-X ants, since they don’t have the population numbers to sway policy decisions.

        • 0 avatar

          @ Featherston,

          That’s occurred to me, if only our elected leaders would put legislation in place to cap the tax rate on taxable defined contribution plans. It would blow to have saved a considerable amount only to watch your future savings get sucked away at an absurdly high tax rate when they are staring down a fixed income.

          And yeah being part of the Gen-X cohort blows as a statistically insignificant generation. The worst part is you’ve had to play the boomer game in an effort to make it to the finish line and now that Gen-X’ers are coming up towards retirement the rules could very well change invalidating a lifetime’s worth of work and savings.

      • 0 avatar

        @ Cactuar,

        I’d bet a significant number of people have simply given up on ever hoping to retire and are to the point they might as well just enjoy what time they have. Especially when you consider the real costs of retirement. If your healthy you might skim by but with a prexisting condition like Wilford Brimely Syndrome and its a liscence for insurance companies to raid what money you might have saved up.

        Add in the rising cost of living and all of a sudden a retirement plan by Smith & Wesson tops the list after your too old a busted up to work.

        • 0 avatar

          this is what I think I’ll be facing. I’m resigned to the probability that I’ll probably have to work until I can’t anymore. and hopefully, by the time I start having trouble caring for myself there will be legal options for checking out. There is no way I’m going to do what my grandparents did.

  • avatar
    Peter Gazis

    Gas is still expensive in Europe. Sales of plug-ins with a long EV range will barely be affected.

    A number of short EV range compliance cars will probably disappear.

  • avatar

    Given that sales of non-electrified cars will be stopping in many European countries soon, the loss of subsidies probably won’t affect sales much.

    And a change in the test protocol does not mean the phev’s now on the road are getting any different mileage. Has ttac printed an article describing the change? The new or former test may be unrealistic for typical real world driving.

  • avatar

    You mean people are buying these plug-ins because they get tax breaks – not because they care about the environment? But what will Europe do if their EV schemes actually work and nobody is buying gasoline or diesel – where are they going to replace the $5-$7 per gallon in fuel taxes? I predict major new taxes for EV owners coming soon. The EU had also better hope that automakers figure out a way to make profits on EVs, otherwise they will need even more revenue to pay for the generous unemployment benefits and bailouts. Fun times ahead for EU government “planners”.

  • avatar

    The whole point of incentives, is to hand them to the privileged and politically connected. Those are the guys in a position to influence their enactment, after all. Once the less privileged have a shot at getting in on the action, “we” have to pay “our” taxes. What else is new?

  • avatar

    Electric cars in Germany are ‘dirty’ since they are charged with electricity overwhelmingly generated by brown coal power plants. So while they may drive emissions-free, the power that is used to charge their batteries is not.

    The only political party in Germany pushing for EVs is the Green Party. This is also the political party which wants to ban sports cars, SUVs, trucks and all forms of automotive advertising. And naturally they wish to take away our freedom of speeding on the Autobahns. This is a ‘shoot first ask questions later’ group. They have no real concept for mass mobilization and the future of travel.

    The other political party’s are being realistic and understand that we still need the Diesel engine to reduce CO2 emissions. Modern diesels are very clean if equipped with SCR and DPF.

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