Skip to main content
European Commission logo

Taxation of cars with a bonus malus system

Switzerland Flag
Complete with results
Geo-spatial type
Project Acronym
SVI 1999/317
STRIA Roadmaps
Transport mode
Road icon
Transport policies
Societal/Economic issues
Transport sectors
Passenger transport


Background & Policy context



The present study goes more into detail than existing treatises on the subject of the bonus/malus system, and makes use of the canton of Ticino as a concrete example. It is unable to offer definitive recommendations however, as too many political questions remain unanswered. These are alluded to briefly, with an indication as to the amount of 'room for manoeuvre'.


On the critical question of introducing an actual bonus/malus system this study looks at nine different approaches and assesses the likely effects in each case. Three basic approaches are possible:

  • A: A bonus/malus system based on the existing instrument of the motor vehicle tax
  • B: A new tax at the time of the 1st registration
  • AB: Combining A and B: a malus at the level of the motor vehicle tax, a bonus as a contribution to the purchase price.

On the assumption that most people who want to buy a car have a basic type in mind (compact, an estate car or van, a de luxe vehicle, etc.) and will only consider the argument of consumption in that context.

Therefore the study makes a further differentiation:

  1. no differentiation
  2. differentiation by power (kW) 
  3. by weight (kg)

The nine approaches result of combination of the basic approaches with the differentiations.


Parent Programmes
Institution Type
Private foundation
Institution Name
Association of Transportation Engineers
Type of funding
Public (national/regional/local)


The theory of price sensitivity holds that the impact of a bonus/malus system in terms of CO2 reduction will be relatively modest. In the case of the approaches studied here and the maximum values adopted the annual reduction of CO2 is in the range of a few points per-thousand.

The method is indeed appropriate only to a limited extent for this kind of research, for in the first place the experimental values adopted for the 'price elasticity' parameter lack a solid basis, and secondly the impact of the flanking measures (e.g. on the behaviour of dealers) cannot be determined.

However, on the basis of complementary plausibility considerations and canton Lucerne's experience with a tax rebate, it can be safely concluded that a significant reduction of CO2 emissionx is a realistic expectation. Given the likely progress of the technology involved, the CO2 reduction objectives of the federal CO2 law may thus be considered realistic.

Extensive secondary effects are to be expected from any bonus/malus system applied to automobiles, which in general can be credited to the public's increasing awareness of the CO2 problem. These range from a more energy-saving behaviour when behind the wheel (Ecodrive) to greater utilisation of public transport, the avoidance of unnecessary journeys, and greater use of renewable sources of energy.

Policy implications

There are a number of important administrative details to consider when introducing a bonus/malus system. These fall mainly into the following three categories:

  • creation of the necessary legal basis;
  • data collection;
  • setting target values and adapting these.

The problems likely to arise are all solvable however. The cantonal highways authority is the most suitable choice for implementation.


Lead Organisation
EU Contribution
Partner Organisations
EU Contribution


Contribute! Submit your project

Do you wish to submit a project or a programme? Head over to the Contribute page, login and follow the process!