The European car market has been put through the blender this year.
If you’ve not bought or leased a new car for a year or more, you might hardly recognise the new auto marketplace.
Some popular models are unavailable, others have long waiting lists.
Some ‘nearly new’ cars are considerably cheaper, but the majority seem to be getting more expensive.
And if that wasn’t difficult enough, your car that produced 110 grams of CO2/KM last week – now produces 130.
Put simply, the new car market is more confusing than a four-lane roundabout. If you are struggling to get your head around some of these changes, Whittle Hall Finance can help you make sense of the new market equilibrium.
We have decades of experience in the car leasing market and can help you find the best deal. To speak to a car leasing expert today, call: 01925 713 212.
WLTP: The changes
Two new tests are responsible for the shake-up.
The Worldwide harmonized Light vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP) test and its on-road companion, the Real Driving Emissions (RDE) test, introduce tough new standards for cars to meet.
The new standards come after the previous test, the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) was criticised for understating emissions like nitrogen oxides.
The NEDC test was designed in the 1980s and has been blasted as outdated and not reflective of ‘real-world’ driving situations.
WLTP replaces the NEDC as the laboratory test. It is longer and more intensive, putting cars through a greater variety of driving situations.
RDE, the on-road test, is better able to take account of previously untested factors like driver behaviour, non-uniform acceleration and a greater range of driving situations, like stop-start traffic driving.
Making sure cars are ready for the new testing environment has taken a long time, especially because each variant of each model needs to be tested individually.
The new testing regime was introduced for new cars last year, but as of September 1st 2018, any car that is not certified cannot legally be sold in Europe.
|Single test cycle
|Dynamic cycle more representative of real driving
|2 phases, 66% urban and 34% non-urban driving
|4 more dynamic phases, 52% urban and 48% non-urban
|34 kilometre per hour
|46.5 kilometre per hour
|120 kilometre per hour
|131 kilometre per hour
|Influence of optional equipment
|Impact on CO2 and fuel performance not considered under NEDC
|Additional features (which can differ per car) are taken into account
|Vehicles have fixed gear shift points
|Different gear shift points for each vehicle
|Measurements at 20-30°C
|Measurements at 23°C, CO2 values corrected to 14°C
Table from wltpfacts.eu.
How is the leasing market affected?
The most direct consequence of the new tests is that a car’s reported emissions are more likely to be what you get on the road.
This gap can be bigger than you think. Research shows that the gap between on-the-road fuel efficiency and lab tested fuel efficiency has risen from 9% in 2000 to 42% today.
Car companies have been accused of ‘gaming the system’ in lab tests – using harder tyres or removing components to reduce weight and increase efficiency.
The VW emissions scandal, in which the German car company fitted with emissions test cheating software, is perhaps the worst example of this.
Although the emissionsgate wasn’t responsible for the introduction of a new testing regime, it did seem to speed up the process and gave car companies less power to push back on the proposals.
The new tests can be seen as an attempt to restore trust in emissions reports. The more accurate tests will, in the long run, make it easier for car buyers to make decisions on which cars they buy.
From the 1st of January 2019, all cars in dealerships should only have WLTP CO2 emissions values displayed in showrooms so as to minimise confusion for customers.
But in the short-term, there is likely to be a lot more confusion about what this all means.
Some cheap deals
You may be able to pick up a great deal on a ‘nearly new’ 18 plate car if it has been pre-registered by dealers. These cars are effectively sold as second hand, so they are not subject to the new WLTP tests.
And dealers are probably quite keen to get rid of them, so you may be able to find yourself a good deal on a lease.
One area of concern for private and fleet car buyers is emissions-based taxation. In the UK, vehicle tax is based on a vehicle’s reported CO2 levels.
If the WLTP test results show a higher CO2 level than the NEDC results, then this could cause confusion for customers. But it should not cost any more in terms of emissions-based vehicle tax.
One of the principles behind the WLTP legislation is that it should not have a negative impact on customers. So, when national governments adjust vehicle taxation and financial incentives to WLTP values, it should not increase vehicle tax.
So far, the UK has said that cars approved under WLTP will continue to be taxed against their NEDC CO2 results until 2020. This includes vehicle tax and company car tax.
From the 6th April 2020, the CO2 value obtained under WLTP will be used instead of the NEDC equivalent.
When WLTP does start to be used to calculate vehicle tax, it will only affect cars that at that time are unregistered, i.e. the CO2 figure that is used for tax purposes when the car is first registered will not change during its lifetime.
The new tests make diesel cars a riskier bet, and while we expect to see some price rises for all cars in the next few months, diesels will be particularly badly hit.
Diesel cars have been at the centre of some of the worst emissions scandals and in future, they are more likely to be hit by national and local emissions taxes and other penalties.
This puts people off buying diesels and can also affect their re-sale values, so good lease deals are probably going to be harder to come by for diesel vehicles.
Supply of vehicles
Things have moved very quickly with WLTP. In all, manufacturers only had a little over a year to make sure their entire range of vehicles passed the new tests.
Emissions testing centres have been working flat out, testing vehicles 24 hours a day. But some manufacturers haven’t made the deadline.
Half of Volkswagen’s cars sold in Europe had not received approval by the September 1st deadline. And some German dealers estimated that some variants of the best-selling Golf would be delayed by as much as six months.
A Volkswagen UK spokesperson told Autocar that the average lead time for most Golf variants in the UK is around 14 to 15 weeks, up from six to ten weeks before WLTP was introduced.
The German carmaker has also cut production and reportedly rented a large site in Berlin to stockpile cars while they figure out what it does with them.
With more uncertainty in the market, there is also evidence that businesses are holding onto cars for longer and reducing demand for cars.
The National Association of Motor Auctions (NAMA) said the overall market was “buoyant” but sales of ex-fleet and contract hire cars at auction were down as fleets postponed disposals, waiting for a clearer picture of where the market is going.
“Auction activity has been buoyant in 2018 so far, and it is believed that around 5.5% more cars have been sold compared to last year,” said NAMA head Louise Wallis
“Despite more units being sold across auction channels in July, the volume of cars sold between 2.5 and 4.5 years of age fell by -2.3%.
“These would typically have been ex-contract hire and lease cars where purchasing new vehicles has been delayed because uncertainty with the new vehicle emission testing,” she said.
This could have a knock-on effect on supply of cars and could result in shortages of certain models.