Almost 2.7 million light-duty vehicles (LDVs) were sold in France in 2019, with an average fuel consumption of 5.5 litres of gasoline equivalent per 100 kilometres, 23% below the global average. Fuel consumption across new LDVs dropped at an average annual rate of 1.7% between 2005 and 2017. However, between 2017 and 2019, fuel consumption increased on average by 2.3% per year.
Fuel economy of all major segments in the LDV market in France has improved since 2005, particularly after 2009 with the introduction of the European Union mandatory fuel economy standards. However, declining shares of diesel powertrains in the three main segments in France (city cars, medium cars and small SUV/pick-up trucks), along with growing sales shares of small SUVs/pick-ups are contributing to slowing fuel economy improvements. In fact, sales shares of small SUV/pick-ups has grown from 3% in 2005 to 31% in 2019, which is roughly equal to the sales share of city cars. Notably, the average weight of LDVs in 2019 remained 8% below the global average, and has grown only 3% since 2005 to reach 1 359 kg in 2019.
In 2019, 49% of new LDVs had gasoline powertrains, up from 40% in 2017. Conversely, the sales share of diesel LDVs has declined from a 55% in 2017 to 44% in 2019. Throughout this time the market for hybrid, plug-in and electric vehicles has continued to expand, with sales shares reaching 3.0%, 0.7% and 1.9%, respectively, in 2019.
Voluntary carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions standards were first introduced in the EU in 1998 and became mandatory in 2009. Corporate average CO2 emissions standards for the period 2015-19 were set at 130 g CO2/km for passenger cars and 175 g CO2/km for light commercial vehicles, which France met ahead of schedule. Emissions standards for 2020-2024 were set at 95 g CO₂/km for passenger cars and 147 g CO₂/km for light commercial vehicles. Under the “Fit for 55” initiative, France will be required to meet new targets, including a 55% reduction in emissions of passenger cars in 2030 compared to 2021 and a 2035 target that effectively requires all new light-duty vehicles to have zero tailpipe CO2 emissions.
In addition to the EU CO2 emissions standards, in 2008 France introduced (and revised on a regular basis over the following years) a “feebate” scheme called Bonus-malus. The scheme imposes a fee on the purchase of vehicles with rated specific CO2 emissions (g CO2/km) above a determined level and redistributes these revenues to provide a subsidy for the purchase of vehicles with CO2 emissions below a specified level. In 2021, the subsidy for LDVs emitting < 20 gCO2/km is a maximum of EUR 7 000. A consumer label that displays specific fuel consumption, CO2 emissions and efficiency class has been mandatory in France since 2006.
To curb increasing purchases of SUVs in France, government recently imposed a tax on vehicles weighing over 1 800 kg of EUR 10.35 for every kg over. Battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles are exempt from the tax.