Renault Zoe Pulls French EV Market To New Heights — #CleanTechnica Electric Car Sales Report

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The French plug-in electric passenger car market scored 5,644 registrations in December (+18% YoY), a new all-time record, and the result could have been  if it weren’t for the dismal results of plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), which were down 21%, their sharpest drop since 2016.

All-electric models grew 37% in December, helping them to reach a record share of 2.7% among the broader auto market (or 3.4% if we include PHEVs).

This recent sales growth pulled the 2018 plug-in vehicle (PEV) share north of 2%, ending at a record 2.1%, with BEVs alone having 1.7% share. Nevertheless, it is a disappointing result when you consider the high level of subsidies offered and the fact that the PEV share only improved 0.4% compared to the 2017 result (1.7%). Better luck in 2019?

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More telling of the changing times is the diesel fall from grace in the mainstream market, with the 2018 share shrinking to 39% (35% last November). That’s a significant departure from the 47% of 2017 and a far cry from the 73% of 2012. Will diesel sales be dead by 2023 in one of the most diesel-addicted markets?

Looking at December’s best sellers, the larger supply of batteries is allowing the Renault Zoe to reach new heights, registering a record 2,558 units in December (+55% year over year, or YoY). That pulled it to #16 in the mainstream market, its highest standing so far, selling at the same level as the Renault Scénic. The Zoe sold at a 1-to-4 ratio compared to the market leader, the Renault Clio, its ICE sibling.

But the real event happened in the #3 spot, with the Smart Fortwo ED scoring a record 339 deliveries. In #6 we have a fresh face, with the Kia Niro EV (aka e-Niro) delivering 175 units in its first full month on the market, a strong beginning that might indicate the Korean crossover is set for a top 5 spot in 2019.

The same can be said about the Hyundai Kona EV, which is (slowly) ramping up its deliveries. It had 146 units delivered in December. Will we have two Koreans on the 2019 top 5 list? More on that later…

December Rank Model Sales  
1 Renault Zoe 2,558
2 Nissan Leaf 447
3 Smart Fortwo ED 339
4 BMW i3 207
5 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV 199

In a market known for its stability, it is no surprise to find that the Renault Zoe won the best selling model trophy, its 6th in a row, with a record 17,038 sales. That’s a 12% improvement over the 2017 result. The Nissan LEAF took another runner-up position, with 4,668 deliveries, almost double last year’s result.

The 2018 bronze medal went to the BMW i3, with 2,415 units delivered (+24%), while the year’s biggest surprise was surely the Volvo XC60 PHEV, coming out of of the blue to the 4th position. That also means that the XC60 PHEV won the 2018 Best Selling PHEV title, after a close race with the Mini Countryman PHEV and Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.

Looking at the second half of the table, we can see two intersecting trends (or mostly intersecting trends) — fully electric vehicles and Koreans rising in December. The Tesla Model S profited from the end-of-quarter push, jump two positions to #12, while the Tesla Model X had a record-breaking month, with 93 registrations, allowing it to end the year in #21.

The runout-mode Kia Soul EV also jumped two positions, to #14, while both Hyundai Ioniq options — the BEV and PHEV — climbed one position, the first to #17 and the second up to #19. Korea is rising…

Looking at some sub-categories, the best-selling SUV/CUV was the Volvo XC60 PHEV (interesting how PHEVs and SUVs overlap, isn’t it?). The BMW 225xe Active Tourer once again won the Best Selling MPV award (lack of competitors tend to do these things…), while the Tesla Model S and Volvo XC90 PHEV renewed their Best Selling Large Car and Best Selling SUV trophies, respectively.

Position France December 2018 2018 PEV Market Share
1 Renault Zoe 2,558 17,038 37%
2 Nissan Leaf 447 4,668 10%
3 BMW i3 207 2,415 5%
4 Volvo XC60 PHEV 167 1,394 3%
5 Mini Countryman PHEV 156 1,332 3%
6 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV 199 1,310 3%
7 Smart Fortwo ED 339 1,278 3%
8 Peugeot iOn 99 1,030 2%
9 BMW 225xe Active Tourer 86 919 2%
10 Volvo XC90 PHEV 118 905 2%
11 Mercedes GLC350e 10 895 2%
12 Tesla Model S 99 749 2%
13 Citroen C-Zero 53 746 2%
14 Kia Soul EV 26 660 1%
15 Porsche Panamera PHEV 14 659 1%
16 VW Golf GTE 5 655 1%
17 Hyundai Ioniq Electric 47 632 1%
18 VW Passat GTE 9 594 1%
19 Hyundai Ioniq PHEV 5 529 1%
20 Porsche Cayenne PHEV 0 528 1%
+ Others 1,000 6,669 15%
ALL TOTAL 5,644 45,605 100%

In the brand ranking, Renault (37%) won its 7th consecutive title, followed at a distance by the #2 Nissan and the #3 BMW, both with ~10% share — the Japanese firm managed to keep a 300 unit advantage over the German brand.

This was a great return to form by Nissan, after ending in 4th last year, with only 6% share. BMW, on the other hand, dropped one position from 2017.

Finally, I’ll give a quick mention to the large e-LCV sector in France. The 8,103 units represented a 35% growth YoY. The Renault Kangoo ZE is not giving chances to anyone, almost doubling sales compared to last year, to 4,176 units — far, far ahead of the #2 Nissan e-NV200, which had 649 registrations.

Looking into 2019, if the Renault Zoe has the next model title already assured, with the French hatchback probably crossing the 20,000 unit mark, the 2nd place slot should see an interesting race between the Nissan LEAF and the upcoming Tesla Model 3, with the Californian possibly reaching some 5,500 deliveries in 2019.

Below these, there should be a few models scoring to some 3,000-ish sales. Besides the BMW i3, we should see both the Kia Niro EV and Hyundai Kona EV reach these heights (assuming the Korean makers can get enough batteries, of course…), while the Peugeot 3008 PHEV, said to land by October of 2019, should make a strong last quarter of the year, becoming not only the 2019 Best Selling PHEV, but also another contender for a top 5 presence.

But, while the 2019 year sure looks more interesting than this past year, I believe the true disruption will only come in 2020, when Peugeot plays its cards. It should then start to deliver its 208 EV, finally forcing the Renault Zoe to get on its toes and make an effort to keep the #1 spot. Additionally, the 3008 PHEV will go after the Nissan LEAF and Tesla Model 3 for the #3 position, thus making the electric vehicle podium a lot more similar to the mainstream one.

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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 468 posts and counting. See all posts by José Pontes