Lies, damned lies, and EU new car sales

Grey market biggest buyer

Grey market biggest buyer

Who is driving Europe’s resurrected new car market? Look behind the headline numbers, and you notice that most of the growth goes on account of auto manufacturers and dealers buying their own cars. A third of new cars registered in the EU’s largest market Germany alone is self-registrations by OEMs, and their franchise partners.

New car registrations Germany, September 2015
Units Share
Self registrations 89,906 33%
Retail 84,360 31%
Corporate 64,451 24%
Rental 33,742 12%


Self-registrations by dealers and OEMs are “rising at an unstoppable clip,” Germany’s industry magazine kfz-Betrieb writes. OEMs and dealers are now their best customers. “Tactical registrations,” as the latest euphemism goes, are now outdistancing those by private customers.

In case you wonder why dealers buy their own cars: By doing so, they can collect volume bonuses. They also can sell the cars at lower prices to other countries (“EU cars”) or as “barely used” cars to private customers at huge rebates. The grey market has become the most important buyer.  Self- or “one day registrations” (Tageszulassung) are so prevalent that the term is protected in Germany. Arguing that the term describes “a hidden rebate,” courts have decided that to qualify as a “one day registration” car, the prior sale must have been a pure paper transaction, that the car must remain a new car, and that there must not be more than 12 months between production and final sale. Rules are rules, even when statistics are being beautified.

Europe’s new car market was up 9.8 percent in September. However, the rate of self-registrations by dealers in Germany also rose by 9.8 percent.  September’s self-registration share was nearly that of January (34%) – traditionally the month with the highest share of bogus sales, as dealers and OEMs goose their year-end sales numbers.

Pro-tip: Check self-registrations before fawning over huge increases in EU car sales.