Last week, Germany's upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat, voted to pass new regulations cracking down on the failure to use winter tyres, with the new rules to take effect on Saturday.
Under the new rules, drivers caught using their summer tyres in ice, snow or slush will have to pay a €40 fine — up from €20 in previous years. Anyone caught obstructing traffic with inappropriate tyres during the difficult winter season faces an €80 fine and receiving a point on their driver's licence.
Any tyres bearing the “M+S” marking, which stands for Matsch und Schnee, or “slush and snow,” are approved by the new regulation.
“All-weather tires also count,” the Transportation Ministry said.
But the new rules, in addition to this week's severe winter weather, mean that the regulation tyres are already sold out in many parts of the country.
“A demand has been created that can hardly be met,” head of the BVR federal association for tyre dealers, Peter Hülzer, told news agency DPA on Thursday.
Despite autumn deliveries being up by some 20 percent compared to last year, there are shortages, he said, adding that the situation may worsen, as manufacturers are already producing summer tyres and rubber prices remain high.
“The market is crazy right now,” Hülzer said, explaining in the most extreme example, tyres suitable for an Audi A2 model which normally cost €45 each are now selling for €150 each.
On average though, prices have increased between five and 10 percent, he said.
Customers who did not anticipate the change in regulations are in for a nasty surprise, too. Anyone trying to make an appointment to get their tyres changes faces a wait of more than two weeks, he added.