Tesla Surges, But Renault Zoe Coasts To #1 In 2017 Europe Electric Car Sales

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Tesla Shines In Near Record Month

The European passenger plug-in market ended the 2017 season with a near record performance, growing 11% compared to the same period last year by registering some 33,700 units, just a whisker below the all-time record of December 2015 (33,827) — which, let’s not forget, was inflated by fiscal changes that happened in the Netherlands, Sweden, and Denmark in January 2016.

Looking at the full year performance, sales were up 38%, to over 306,000 registrations. This growth is even more significant against the backdrop of a stagnating (-5%) automotive market in Europe, making plug-ins the fastest growing segment on the Old Continent.

More good news: in the BEV/PHEV breakdown, the BEV share grew to 49%, with all-electric cars growing faster than PHEVs (+45% vs +32%). Expect this trend to continue this year, with BEVs recovering the upper hand over plug-in hybrids.

Looking at plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) share, December hit a record 3% share among the overall automotive market, pulling the full-year share further up, ending 2017 at 2%. Looking into 2018, I think we should see the plug-in share end around 4% share, with the last months of the year even reaching some 6%.

In December, Tesla had its usual last-month-of-quarter peak performance, but this time the resurgent Renault Zoe resisted the Tesla tide and won the Best Seller title anyway, thanks to 3,380 deliveries.

Interestingly, the biggest surprise in December didn’t reach the December top 5, ending the month at #6. The Smart Fortwo ED scored 1,707 sales, by far the nameplate’s best performance ever. It seems the tiny two-seater is experiencing overwhelming demand, with the Smart EV already having a 6-month waiting list and suffering from a recurrent problem: “Not enough batteries.”

Monthly Model Ranking

#1 Renault Zoe — December marked a return to form for the French hatchback, growing 18% year over year (YoY), to 3,380 registrations. That made it the car’s best performance since June. Let’s hope the Renault EV doesn’t suffer from further production hiccups and delivers enough units to satisfy demand from now on. As for individual country performances, besides the usual good result at home (1,652 registrations), there were also big numbers in countries like Germany (301 registrations), Norway (422 registrations), and Spain (168 registrations).

#2 Tesla Model S — Mostly thanks to Norway (1,026 registrations, its best result there in 32 months), the Californian was in second place in December, with boatloads of S’s arriving to Europe (starving some Asian markets) and deliveries up a whopping 74% YoY, to 2,451 total registrations. Aside from the Norwegian specific case, it appears the Model 3 reveal not only didn’t hurt sales, but actually helped them. Perhaps many buyers preferred not to wait and bought the older, bigger, more expensive model instead of waiting for ages for the Model 3 to cross the pond. Looking at individual countries, besides Norway’s undisputed contribution, the Netherlands (400 deliveries, its best result in 4 years!) and Germany (213 deliveries) were also heavy contributors. Overall, it was a generally positive month throughout the continent for the electric sports sedan. Looking ahead, expect deliveries to return to more regular levels, but the end of 2018 could imply falling sales, as buyers see the Model 3 arrival getting closer and closer…

#3 Tesla Model X — The ugly duckling of the Tesla stable had an opportunity to shine in December, growing 42% YoY to a record 2,156 registrations and ending the month on the podium. If the record sales in Norway (1,429 deliveries) were the main driving force, other markets also impressed, with the Netherlands and the United Kingdom posting three-digit tallies. The SUV/minivan-that-thinks-is-a-sports-car is profiting from incoming improvements (e.g., second- and third-row seats are now foldable…) and might start to leave the long shadow of older brother Model S.

#4 BMW i3 — The German Stormtrooper Hatchback was up 9% in December, to 1,979 registrations, a result explained by deliveries of the facelifted version starting, but note that it is still in an early production phase. Still, it was enough to secure another top 5 presence, and expect deliveries in 2018 to continue the growth path. Looking at individual countries, strong results in Norway (512 registrations, all BEV) and Germany (scoring 562 registrations) carried the day, with Austria (124) and France (177) also helping along. Looking into 2018, expect deliveries to pick up in the coming months as BMW returns to full production in its Leipzig plant and delivers as many i3 and i8 as the factory can pump out.

#5 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV — After a close race with the Smart Fortwo ED(!), the Japanese SUV managed to secure the 5th spot in December even though sales were down 23% YoY, to 1,837 registrations. Despite the setback, the Mitsubishi model continues to profit from its unique mix of space, AWD, range, and affordability (€40,000), which make it popular in markets like the UK, Norway, Sweden, France, and Germany. In the long run, it is not certain that the Japanese SUV can keep up with the general growing sales trend and stay among Europe’s top sellers. We’ll see.

December 2017 — Full Year EV Market Share
Renault Zoe 3,380 31,410 10%
BMW i3 1,979 20,855 7%
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV 1,837 19,189 6%
Nissan Leaf 486 17,454 6%
Tesla Model S 2,451 15,553 5%
Volkswagen Passat GTE 1,291 13,599 4%
Volkswagen e-Golf 1,369 12,895 4%
Tesla Model X 2,156 12,630 4%
Mercedes GLC350e 975 11,249 4%
BMW 225xe 919 10,805 4%
BMW 330e 1,180 10,117 3%
Volkswagen Golf GTE 983 9,267 3%
Audi A3 e-Tron 616 8,356 3%
Volvo XC90 T8 725 7,847 3%
Mercedes C350e 399 6,861 2%
BMW 530e 825 6,143 2%
Hyundai Ioniq Electric 669 6,117 2%
BMW X5 xDrive40e 553 5,944 2%
Kia Soul EV 558 5,551 2%
Smart Fortwo ED 1,707 5,191 2%
Others 8,680 69,110 23%
TOTAL 33,738 306,143 100%

2017 Ranking —
Renault Zoe Wins #1 Best Selling EV Model Award,
BMW Wins #1 EV Manufacturer Award

The year 2017 crowned the Renault Zoe as the best-selling plug-in car in Europe, for the second time in a row, thanks to 31,410 registrations. That’s an increase of 43% compared to 2016. Silver went to the ever improving BMW i3, winning its first podium position with 20,855 registrations. The two-time winner Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV ended the year in 3rd, its lowest standing ever since it landed, what, 400 years ago — in 2013. Having seen its sales drop 10% compared to 2016, and an astounding 39% relative to 2015, are wrinkles showing on the Mitsubishi plug-in hybrid? Still, the Japanese SUV was the best-selling plug-in hybrid for the fifth time in a row, and with no other PHEV selling at the same pace, expect it to remain the plug-in hybrid king throughout 2018.

Speaking of 2018, the Zoe and i3 are sure to run with the VW e-Golf and others (Smart Fortwo ED?) for podium positions, while the first position is sure to go to … the new Nissan Leaf. Hot on the heels of 10,000 orders in Europe alone, the facelifted version will not only be the strongest candidate for the best seller award, but will also expand EVs further into the mainstream buyer market.

But back to December, the last month of the year hasn’t brought many changes to the 2017 ranking, with the most important being the Smart Fortwo ED jumping enough seats to reach the top 20, while the 2017 Rookie of the Year, the BMW 530e, climbed to #16.

In the strong sales month, several models hit record performances. Besides the aforementioned Smart Fortwo ED having a smashing month and the Model X reaching a new deliveries record, two recently arrived Volvos have impressed, beating their own records: The XC60 PHEV registered an amazing 1,213 units, earning the ninth place in December, while the S/V90 PHEV twins had 594 deliveries.

Another rising star bubbling up below the top 20, the Porsche Panamera PHEV, despite struggling from a common disease (not enough batteries…), still registered 717 units last month. And the Mini Countryman PHEV, with 752 registrations in December, had yet another record month.

Looking at the manufacturer ranking, BMW (18, down 1%) won the class trophy, repeating its 2016 title, followed by Volkswagen (12%) in second place. Renault (11%, down 1%) took the last spot on the podium. Interestingly, the 2016 podium was exactly the same…

Off the podium, Tesla (9%) was 4th and Mercedes (8%) was 5th, replacing Nissan and Mitsubishi in the 2017 ranking.

Also published on EV Obsession’s Electric Car Sales page.

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José Pontes

Always interested in the auto industry, particularly in electric cars, Jose has been overviewed the sales evolution of plug-ins on the EV Sales blog, allowing him to gain an expert view on where EVs are right now and where they are headed in the future. The EV Sales blog has become a go-to source for people interested in electric car sales around the world. Extending that work and expertise, Jose is also market analyst on EV-Volumes and works with the European Alternative Fuels Observatory on EV sales matters.

José Pontes has 467 posts and counting. See all posts by José Pontes