Best sold electric cars in Germany in 2023, all together in a showroom, AI-generated image.
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What’s the old saying again? Half as bad is not twice as good. That’s roughly how you could describe the year 2023 and the transformation to electromobility in Germany.

The year started with dream figures

2023 was supposed to bring the breakthrough in electromobility because, let’s remember, the traffic light government had set a target of 15 million electric vehicles by 2030. However, they had not reckoned with the final opponent of this government – the government itself.

Goodbye to subsidies

It was already clear in 2022 that the following years would be more difficult because the subsidies, aka “environmental bonus”, would be reduced over the next few years. In other words, if the subsidy pot were empty, the OEMs from Germany and abroad would have to be so advanced that the electric cars would pay for themselves. That was too short-sighted.

In December 2022, a staggering 104,325 electric vehicles were registered, totaling 470,559 electric vehicles over the year. The reason was the first reduction in the environmental bonus from January 2023.

August 2023

In August 2023, there was another (announced) change. Electric vehicles registered for business and commercial use would no longer receive a state environmental bonus from September. 86,649 electric vehicles were therefore still registered shortly before the deadline – in September, only 31,714 electric vehicles were registered.

TOP20 BEV new registrations and share by brand in Germany (2023)

The market is reacting sensitively

Even though publications and influencers have repeatedly asserted that the TCO of an electric car is already cheaper than that of a combustion engine, German consumers remain skeptical.

Above all, the often-invoked breakthrough was slowed down by reduced state subsidies. The worst effect was the hysterical December decision by Economics Minister Habeck to cancel the remaining subsidies from one day to the next in the wake of the budget crisis triggered by an unconstitutional budget.

A disservice to environmental policy

The wrong decisions and the amateurish economic and financial policy of the traffic lights have ultimately done a disservice to the transport transformation. It seems downright frivolous that the figure of 15 million electric vehicles for 2030 is still being held onto.

VW suffers the most?

The VW Group felt the brunt of the erratic policy the most. There was repeated talk of “the roof truss being on fire”. However, the VW brand achieved a small, respectable success in 2023. It relegated Tesla to second place in terms of electric vehicle registrations. 70,628 vehicles from Wolfsburg were registered, but only 63,685 Teslas. The Americans even had to accept a drop of almost 10% compared to the previous year, although the Model Y was the best-selling electric car in Germany.

TOP 20 BEV-Sales of car models in Germany (2023)
TOP 20 BEV-Sales of car models in Germany (2023)

Outlook for 2024

Will consumers recover after the shock in 2023 and continue to drive the transformation? Even industry insiders now doubt it. 524,219 electric cars were registered in Germany in 2023, around 18% of all registrations.

The CAM (Center of Automotive Management) expects only 430,000 to 480,000 new registrations in 2024. The reasons for the expected decline are manifold. Firstly, the abolition of the environmental bonus plays a major role. Secondly, there is currently a lack of impetus for the affordable mass market in the form of affordable vehicles. And finally, the economic environment is currently unfavorable.

“Car pope” Prof. Dr. Ferdinand Dudenhöffer is even clearer. In an interview with the news channel NTV, he warned of a renaissance of the combustion engine and said about the government: “Germany’s car manufacturers no longer take the chatter of Habeck and co. seriously anyway. After a few months, they will put all their energy back into the highly profitable combustion engine”.

Buyers’ market

For those still considering buying an electric car, 2024 will nevertheless be an exciting year. Because the market is changing into a buyer’s market. Car companies are already trying to compensate for the high prices of vehicles with their own “environmental bonuses” and special offers and, above all, to reduce the growing stockpiles.

However, it is also a fact that 2024 will be a lost year for the German electric vehicle market. The 15 million figure for 2030 now sounds like the 5-year plans under socialism that were never kept … Too bad.