European vehicle market statistics, 2012


The 2013 edition of European Vehicle Market Statistics is now available

And see the EU Pocketbook online,, for interactive charts and underlying data.


The 2012 edition of European Vehicle Market Statistics offers a statistical portrait of passenger car and light commercial vehicle fleets in the European Union from 2001 to 2011. As in the 2011 edition, the emphasis is on vehicle technologies and emissions of greenhouse gases and other air pollutants. This edition adds brief introductions to each chapter, noting important trends, and also includes selected comparisons to other large vehicle markets. Download the PDF here. An e-book version is available as well.

Selected highlights

New passenger car registrations continued on the generally downward path started in 2007; since that year they have fallen from 15.6 million to 13.1 million, a decline of 16%. The trend reflects the close relationship between vehicle sales and the economic climate.

The EU legislation setting binding targets for carbon dioxide emissions from passenger cars, introduced in 2009, has shown itself to be effective. As early as 2007 a decrease in CO2 emissions was perceptible, as manufacturers anticipated the regulation. Progress has continued: the annual rate of reduction is approximately 3%, and at 135.7 g/km in 2011 average emissions are already approaching the 130 g/km target established for 2015.

The vast majority of Europe’s new cars remain powered by gasoline or diesel motors. Diesel cars account for 55% of all new registrations, gasoline cars for 44%; all other technologies—hybrids, electrics, and natural gas and ethanol-fueled vehicles—combine to make up the remaining 1%. This situation differs notably from other major car markets. Despite much work on alternative powertrains, and much attendant publicity, registration statistics clearly indicate that they remain niche products.

The average mass of new cars in the EU in 2011 was 1390 kg, which represents a return, after a brief hiatus, to the recent historical pattern of annual increases. The trend is concerning because of the relationship between vehicle mass and fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. Had average new car mass remained constant for the last 10 years, the EU’s 2015 emissions target of 130 g/km would have already been met. The increasing weight of the average passenger car reflects incentives built into regulation. The indexing parameter used in setting EU emissions standards is vehicle mass, meaning that heavier cars are granted higher CO2 limits. Studies have pointed out the advantages to emissions reduction of making vehicle size the indexing parameter, a change that would create incentives for manufacturers to reduce vehicle mass, for example by more extensive use of lightweight materials such as high-strength steel, which also affords safety advantages.

The so-called Euro standards (Euro 1–6) for passenger cars are one of the true success stories in the field of environmental regulations. Under these standards, limits on carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter have been progressively tightened, with the latest iteration (Euro 6) setting limits that range from 68% (gasoline carbon monoxide) to 96% (diesel particulates) lower than those established under Euro 1 in 1992. Legislative success has not necessarily translated into improvement in emissions as measured outside a vehicle testing laboratory, however. This is particularly true for NOx emissions from diesel cars. The limits for these emissions decreased by 64% between Euro 3 in 2000 and Euro 5 in 2009. But measured, real-world emissions over this period improved by only 18%. The consequence of that disparity is persistent air quality problems, especially in urban areas.

Related Content