(Completely revised)

FRANKFURT (dpa-AFX) - The threat of special European tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles pushed the share prices of local car manufacturers to multi-month lows on Thursday. The threat of retaliatory measures by China is increasingly unsettling investors. The European automotive sector, which had risen to a record high just two months ago, has now slumped by almost 14% to its lowest level since the beginning of February.

China is threatening to take the EU to the World Trade Organization (WTO) over the punitive tariffs it is considering on Chinese e-cars. The EU Commission had previously threatened China with high provisional punitive tariffs on e-cars. The German Association of the Automotive Industry criticizes the EU Commission's consideration of imposing high punitive tariffs. These would be an obstacle to global cooperation, the association argues.

China is probably prepared to increase the import duty on cars with an engine capacity of more than 2.5 liters from the current 15 to 25 percent, wrote the automotive experts at Bernstein Research, citing China's Chamber of Commerce at the European Union. This could affect BMW and Mercedes-Benz in particular. Last year, 13 percent of BMW's passenger cars registered in China were imported vehicles, while the figure for Mercedes-Benz was as high as 20 percent.

The VW and Audi brands import only 1 and 9 percent respectively of all passenger cars with large engines registered in China, the study continued. The situation is different for the VW luxury brands Porsche, Bentley and Lamborghini and the BMW luxury brand Rolls Royce. These are all imported and are therefore subject to any higher duties. However, German manufacturers have been able to avoid import duties in the past by using smaller engines.

Nevertheless, investors ran for cover on Thursday: share price losses ranged from 1.6 percent for Mercedes-Benz to 3.9 percent for Volkswagen and 5.5 percent for the VW holding company Porsche Holding. Shares in the sports car manufacturer Porsche AG fell by almost four percent, another record low. Renault shares in Paris and Stellantis shares in Milan also came under pressure.

The specialists at UBS bank are fundamentally skeptical as to whether the EU's punitive tariffs on imported cars from China are appropriate. This is because large Chinese manufacturers such as BYD would then boost their production in the EU. With production in Eastern Europe, they would still have a cost advantage of 25 percent over European mass manufacturers such as Volkswagen, Renault and Stellantis. "For this reason, we see only limited benefit for (Europe's) mass manufacturers, if any," was the conclusion on punitive tariffs.

In contrast to European manufacturers, investors reacted positively to Asian car stocks: BYD's share price rose by more than four percent in China. The market said that there was now more clarity for Chinese manufacturers and that a major uncertainty factor had been removed from the shares, especially as the price advantages for the Chinese were likely to continue. The shares of manufacturers Nio, Li Auto and Geely also posted gains in the Far East./bek/tih/mis