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Cars and Transportation

Dirty diesel cars for Eastern Europe

Paul Flückiger
August 24, 2017

Car owners in Germany can claim a rebate of up to 10,000 euros when they trade in their old diesel car for a new car. Many of the old vehicles may end up in Poland – and put pressure on car dealerships.

A diesel exhaust emitting gas
Image: picture-alliance/Chromorange/Bilderbox

The used car importer "Global Imports" in Gdansk does not have any diesel cars on offer at present. "We are moving away from diesel more and more," says a salesman, adding that his boss rarely orders them anymore. Used car dealers cannot rule out the fact that the introduction of the environmental rebate in Germany could change this. "There are many discussions in the industry," a trader reports. The problem is, however, that no one knows how this financial incentive will affect the Polish market, he adds. "That is why everyone is waiting to see what happens."

Read more: Dieselgate forces German carmakers to rethink their future

According to media reports, most of Germany's old diesel cars will be scrapped before their owners can benefit from the environmental rebate when they buy a new car. Volkswagen and Audi are expected to pay up to 10,000 euros - a large amount of money for many Poles.

BMW, Mercedes and Toyota are offering around 2,000 euros when car owners trade in a diesel model that is at least 7 years old and that meets the EURO 4 emissions limit, but the old car will not be demolished. Apparently, they may later end up on the Polish market. In 2016, BMW was the sixth-most popular brand among Polish secondhand car buyers. Toyota and Mercedes came in ninth and tenth, respectively.

Fear of cheap used cars from Germany

The used car market in Poland has grown steadily since 2011. The latest annual report published by the "Association of Automotive Manufacturers of Poland (PZPM)" reveals that the Polish market grew by 20 percent between 2015 and 2016 alone. Used cars account for two-thirds of first-time car registrations in Poland – new cars only make up one-third. Around 1.5 million cars are registered every year, more than half of which are over 10 years old and thus especially detrimental to the environment (54 percent).

Read more: Dieselgate exposes cozy ties between Germany's car industry and Berlin

"The question is how the environmental rebate will be implemented," said PZPM President Jakub Farys in an interview with DW. "If the old diesel cars are not scrapped, we may have a problem." However, he cannot imagine that Berlin would merely move the environmental damage across the border just as a campaign tactic for September's parliamentary elections. According to Farys, it is foreseeable that diesel cars built between 1992 and 2009 may end up in the eastern part of the EU if they are not scrapped in Germany.

The old diesel cars can still be driven perfectly legally in Poland. "These cars will be cheap and thus in high-demand in Poland," fears the association president. "A hundred thousand diesel cars aged seven years or under are not a drama, but a million older models would be a disaster," explains Farys. They would not only exert massive pressure on the price of secondhand cars, but also of new ones - and would only further pollute the air in Poland.