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Export ban or expropriation of EURO 4 vehicles?

A new regulation for the sale of used cars could mean that they have to be scrapped. An EU directive is planned that will classify used cars with an exhaust emission class below Euro 5 as scrap in the future. This will make it increasingly difficult or impossible to sell them in poorer countries.

Many used cars that no longer find a market in Europe are sold to Africa, especially trucks. In 2020, for example, Germany sold more than 89,000 cars and 71,000 trucks to Africa. By comparison, the difference between used cars and trucks exported from Germany to other EU countries is much greater, namely 341,560 cars and 37,170 trucks. Exports to Africa are mainly to Libya, Ghana, Nigeria and Benin.

Now, sales to poorer countries outside the EU could be made difficult or impossible by a new End-of-Life Vehicles Directive. The Greens in the EU propose to exclude used vehicles from resale if the cost of repair is higher than the value of the vehicle. The same is to apply to vehicles that are below the Euro 5 emission class. As a reminder, diesel and petrol trucks have Euro class 4 if they were first registered before 1 October 2009. Passenger cars must have been registered before 1.1.2011.

The German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) emphasises that a new regulation of the directive should primarily be about the fight against illegal car exports. However, reselling used cars often makes more ecological sense than scrapping them. The crux of the matter is labour costs: a vehicle that is not worth repairing in Europe because of high labour costs can be repaired in Africa for a fraction of the price. After all, labour costs and repair costs are many times lower in Africa. In the case of a small car, a dented door is often enough to stop the export.

If the EU were to tighten export rules, many exporters of used cars would see their existence threatened. The market for used cars would simply be taken over by the USA and China. Nothing would be gained for the environment. The whole thing seems more like expropriation through the back door for the benefit of the car industry. Functioning Euro 4 vehicles would lose their sales value and be declared scrap. This is to the detriment of all consumers who do not want or cannot afford a new car.