German car sales plunge in May

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Protests against Germany's "Dieselgate" in front of Germany's Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure. Reuters

BERLIN (AFP) – Sales of new cars in Germany plunged in May, official figures showed yesterday, dragged lower by public holidays and mounting uncertainty about the future of scandal-plagued diesel.

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A total of 305,057 new cars hit German roads last month, the KBA federal vehicle licensing authority said, a drop of 5.8 percent year-on-year.

Of those, just 95,000 cars were diesels, a number more than 27 percent lower than a year before.

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Diesel’s ongoing slide came as Hamburg became the first German city last month to ban older diesels from two stretches of road to combat air pollution, with other cities mulling similar restrictions.

Diesel’s reputation has lain in tatters ever since Volkswagen admitted in 2015 to installing software in millions of diesel vehicles worldwide designed to dupe emissions tests.

Since then, concerns about pollution and the falling resale value of diesels have seen consumers turn away from the once popular technology.

Whereas diesels still accounted for around 45 percent of all car sales in 2016, that share fell to 38 percent in 2017 and the decline has continued into 2018.

But industry bodies said the car sector remained in good health, pointing out that overall car sales from January to May were up 2.6 percent compared with the same period a year earlier.

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The VDIK foreign carmakers’ association said in a statement that May’s dip in registrations was partly down to a string of public holidays that kept dealerships closed.

“The German passenger car market continues to be in solid shape, even though public holidays and long weekends have somewhat slowed down the momentum,” said VDIK president Reinhard Zirpel.

“The falling diesel registrations are overcompensated by vehicles with alternative or petrol engines,” he added.

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