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New car purchases surge in Finland – including high-emissions models

An impending move toward stricter emissions testing paradoxically boosted sales of higher-polluting vehicles in August.

nainen autokaupassa
The government is trying to steer consumers toward cleaner cars. Image: Ismo Pekkarinen / AOP

More than 12,000 new cars were registered in Finland last month, the highest figure for August since the turn of the millennium, says the Finnish auto-sector information centre (AuT). Car registrations were up by more than 24 percent from the same month in 2017, the centre said on Monday.

Pekka Rissa, Managing Director of the Finnish Central Organisation for Motor Trades and Repairs (AKL) told the news agency STT that people were spurred to buy new vehicles by the state’s cash-for-clunkers programme – which was in its final month – as well as stricter emissions testing and the generally strong economic situation.

The cash-for-clunkers scrapping scheme offered a rebate of up to 2,000 euros to any consumer who took an old, high-polluting car off the road and replaced it with a new low-emission purchase, as a means of cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Tighter testing spurs sales of gas guzzlers

Conversely, said Rissa, the impending launch of more precise measurements of carbon dioxide emissions, which took effect at the beginning of September, boosted sales of higher-emissions cars in August.

“The new measurement procedure gives more exact CO2 readings, which are an average of 22 percent higher than previous figures,” he said. Automotive taxes will be more closely pegged to emissions for cars bought from now on.

The motor trade executive noted that an economic upswing tends to encourage new car sales, and that this was evident in the August numbers.

The Finnish Transport Safety Agency (Trafi) says that about 90 percent of the eight million euros earmarked for the scrapping scheme was used by the end of August. Over the course of eight months, more than 6,700 end-of-life gas guzzlers were taken off the nation’s roads.

EV sales still sluggish

The government has also set a target of a quarter-million fully-electric cars on the road by 2030. Anyone buying a new all-electric will be eligible for a 2,000-euro rebate as of the start of next year.

So far sales of electric vehicles have been low in Finland, especially compared to neighbouring Norway and Sweden.

In the first half of this year, only about 350 new electric cars were registered, up only slightly from the corresponding figure for 2017.

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