Number of cars in Belgium stagnates
According to the national bureau for statistics, Statbel, there are a fraction fewer cars on the road than last year on the 1st of August. The small regress (-0,01%) is the first since World War II. Is it due to corona or are there more structural changes going on?
Last year, on the 1st of August, there were 5 889 210 cars on the road in Belgium; this year, the total shrunk to 5 888 589. A very small regress, but one has to compare it with the annual growth of 1,27% for the last ten years.
For the sector federation Febiac, the reason is obvious. “There has been a lockdown in Belgium, the production and sales of new cars have been almost nihil for a couple of months,” says spokesman Joost Kaesemans.
According to Kaesemans, this regress is not structural, but he also points out that if the growth comes back, it will be very minimal. “The car market hasn’t been a ‘conquering’ market anymore for a long time; it’s a saturated replacement market. People buy a car to replace the old one, not because they didn’t have one before.”
Febiac also points at the fact that habits are changing. People have discovered homeworking and other (personal) means of transport. “When people reorganize their lives after corona, it’s perfectly possible that they go from two cars to one.”
Febiac isn’t necessarily opposed to this scenario. The federation supports initiatives like car-sharing or more qualitative public transport. “We have to temper the growth if we don’t want to increase our traffic problems,” concludes Kaesemans.
Gasoline number one again
While, since 2005, the number of diesel cars was higher than those running on gasoline, this has again changed now. 48,3% of all cars are using gasoline for propulsion, whereas 47,8% run on diesel.
There are several reasons for this diesel regress. There are low-emission zones that keep out the older diesel cars, the price of diesel has gone up compared to gasoline, and, according to Kaesemans, also, there is the influence of the dieselgate scandal.
The number of electrified cars and CNG-driven vehicles is increasing rapidly, but their total number is still modest: 24 000 cars are fully electric, 155 000 are hybrids, and 15 000 use gas.
Statbel also notes that the total number of vehicles on the road still grows. This is due to the number of trucks, vans, off-roaders, and comparable vehicles. It grew from 796 930 in 2016 to 910 356 this year.
Analysts agree on the causes: vans are constantly growing because of the booming e-commerce, and alternatives for truck transport are not so popular. “Transport by rail or boat is not profitable under 150 km,” says Joost Kaesemans. “But also for longer journeys, trucks are preferred because rail takes too much time.”