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New car sales in Europe plunged by more than 8% in August

Jill Petzinger
Jill Petzinger, Germany Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Greenpeace activists standing on Volkswagen (VW) cars hold posters reading "Climate Killers" as they demonstrate at the booth of Volkswagen, on September 12, 2019. Photo: Getty Images

The European car industry suffered another sales plunge last month, with new car registrations down 8.4 % from the same month a year ago, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers Association.

The industry body noted, however, that August 2018 was unusual in that carmakers were pushing out new passenger cars before the September introduction of the new WLTP emissions tests, and car sales shot up my over 30%.

Last month’s slide was felt across the five biggest European markets, with Spain and France worst hit—their registrations fell by 30.8% and 14.1% respectively.

Barring a little uptick in July, it has been a gloomy year so far for car companies, with demand down by more than 3% year-on-year, to some 10.5 million registrations.

READ MORE: Germany set to spend €40bn in next four years to combat climate change

The figures reflect the issues dragging on the industry. It is battling with the expensive investment in electrification and the threat of big fines if fleets are not ready to conform to strict new EU CO2-emission limits from next year onwards.

Ongoing trade tensions between the US and China, and the US and the EU, coupled with slowdown in the Chinese car market are adding to woes.

In Germany, home to most of the automotive giants, the mood veers from caution to anxiety.

Carmakers are calling on the government to invest more to help build out charging networks, which will help them actually sell their electric cars when they come to market. Chancellor Angela Merkel acknowledged the industry’s “Herculean task” of transforming to sustainable mobility when she opened the Frankfurt Motor Show last week.

Over 15,000 climate protestors amassed at the Frankfurt car show last week to demand an exit from internal combustion engines and insist that carmakers stop lauding their green credentials whilst developing and selling tons of gas-guzzling SUVs.

Hundreds of climate protests are planned across Germany on Friday, as adults join in on the Fridays for Future marches. The German government is planning to present a €40bn (£35bn, $44bn) climate package on Friday as well.

READ MORE: Climate protests and economic clouds force changes at Frankfurt motor show