We write about Tesla a lot because it is pushing, pulling, and tickling the auto industry forward. It is a wild success story like we’ve never before seen in cleantech. It is a success story we have perhaps never really seen in the US auto industry, or at least not for approximately a century. It is a boon to US manufacturing in a time when that sector has been notoriously struggling. Nonetheless, Tesla is one corner of a big puzzle on transportation electrification. The challenging question has been, who’s going to follow Tesla’s lead? Additionally, how big of a corner will Tesla actually cover?
Nissan fans may say Nissan is the world’s electrification leader, still laying claim to the top selling electric car in history. Volkswagen Group fans may say that Volkswagen Group (including Porsche, VW, Audi, and others) has the most promising electric vehicle plan and potential, and is about to take the market by storm. The underlying question is how many electric vehicles each of these automakers can sell in the next 5 years.
I’m also curious about Kia, Hyundai, and Renault, so they’ll be included in this thought experiment masquerading as an analysis as well in a future article. There are other automakers one could consider here — PSA Group, Ford, GM, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Toyota, Honda, and more. However, I don’t feel like I have enough of a hint about these automakers to put out an analysis on them. Are any of them serious about electrification in the next 5 years? Who knows? Have any of them done any serious work to secure battery supplies for the next 5 years? Who knows? For now, I’ll take a look at Volkswagen, Tesla, & Nissan and we can see where we end up with this trio, and then I’ll do the same for Renault, Hyundai, and Kia.
Let’s assume Tesla, thanks to Gigafactory 3, ramps up production (and thus sales) to 442,000 in 2020 (note that is below the company’s target of 500,000/year by then). A solid rollout of the Model Y in 2021 should significantly boost production and sales, leading to 742,000 sales in 2021 in my forecast. That grows to 800,000 (magically, such an even multiple of 100,000) in 2022, 870,000 in 2023, and 1,000,000 in 2024. To cap off this 5 year forecast, I’m estimating 1,300,000 sales in 2025.
If this is remotely close to accurate, its means Tesla will sell more or less 5,154,000 from 2020 through 2025. If we throw that together with previous years’ sales and an estimate for the second half of 2019, here’s a visual of how that would look:
Does that look about right?
Maybe. Maybe not. We’ll find out.
To make it more comparable to coming charts, here’s the 2020–2025 forecast by itself:
Naturally, the annual forecasts try to take into account sales of the Tesla Model 3, Tesla Model Y, Tesla Model S, Tesla Model X, and coming Tesla pickup truck. The bulk of the forecasts, though, weigh on Model 3 and Model Y production and demand.
How about Volkswagen Group, which has had an aggressive electric vehicle marketing campaign running for years and plans to roll out dozens of fully electric vehicles in the next 5 years? Volkswagen Group is a bit hard to judge because it has many brands under its umbrella (VW, Audi, Skoda, Porsche, etc.), because some of its executives have spoken aggressively about electrification while others have done the opposite, and because we have no real insight into how many batteries it is securing for the coming years. That said, we have seen some press releases and news items about serious efforts in this regard (which we basically haven’t seen from any other major automakers) and there are reports of fully electric vehicles lines and factories being completed or scheduled for completion in the next couple of years.
As many skeptics will note, Volkswagen’s track record up to today with pure EVs has been slim and somewhat lame. In Europe, it’s selling a couple thousand vehicles a month, give or take, of each the VW e-Golf and Audi e-tron. In the USA, the two vehicles have been totaling approximately 1,000 units a month.
But what about coming years? The Volkswagen ID.3 is the first potentially mass-market electric vehicle from Volkswagen, and if it’s a real hit, it could be the most popular non-Tesla electric vehicle from a European or American manufacturer. Volkswagen has said it expects to sell 30,000 of the “ID.3 1st” launch edition and aims to achieve an annual run rate of 100,000 units by late 2020 or 2021. Overall, Volkswagen’s new global e-mobility webpage says, “In 2025, Volkswagen intends to sell at least 1 million electric cars per year.” That’s with a targeted 30 fully electric models on the market. After the ID.3 comes the ID.CROZZ, a potentially mass market electric crossover. This could be a very popular vehicle, if the price is right and VW has the production capacity. Nonetheless, it seems Volkswagen doesn’t have an aggressive plan for sales. Maybe it’s just being cautious, but if that’s the case, I figure it’s best for me to be cautious here as well.
Taking all of that together and mixing it up with some kale and tomatoes, here’s a forecast for Volkswagen Group’s electric vehicle sales through 2025:
All together, that would result in 2,950,000 Volkswagen Group sales in the 5 year timespan.
Nissan is an interesting animal. As noted at the top, it has the electric vehicle that has seen the most sales in history — the Nissan LEAF, of course. Early on, when it was clear to then-CEO and Chairman Carlos Ghosn that the battery market was too immature to supply Nissan with the battery volume it wanted, the company basically acquired a battery producer and used it to help scale up production of the LEAF. However, at this point it’s widely concluded that Nissan made some big mistakes on battery pack design, and in more recent years Nissan has gotten out of that business and shifted to buying its batteries from major EV battery producers. Though, even to this day, the LEAF has a weak reputation and negative stigma due to battery issues it has included year after year.
Despite its stumbles, Nissan should see as well as anyone that EV batteries are hitting a critical crossover on cost for value, and that is leading to a disruptive, messy transformation in the auto business. The time is now to ride the enormous electric wave that is starting to break. Here’s a chart I produced earlier this year on Nissan LEAF range evolution (note that the LEAF’s price has remained relatively stable during this time):
Nissan should know where this is growing. Nissan should know that the LEAF will soon crush the gasmobiles in its size and sporting its tech.
That said, what the company seems to have done to Carlos Ghosn (thrown him under a big, unfair, diesel bus) doesn’t instill confidence. The company’s lack of clear plans on EVs and disinterest in releasing another pure electric car since the LEAF are not inspiring signs.
I’m going to go ahead and forecast 80,000 Nissan electric sales in 2020, 100,000 in 2021, 150,000 in 2022, 200,000 in 2023, 300,000 in 2024, and 500,000 in 2025. That totals 1,330,000 Nissan electric vehicle sales from 2020–2025.
Look about right? Way too pessimistic? Too optimistic?
Overall, I think these forecasts are on the conservative side of things. I would not be surprised to see higher sales from each of these companies. That said, battery supplies are a big potential bottleneck. If battery production doesn’t ramp up fast enough, these forecasts could of course be too optimistic.
Combining these forecasts, here’s an interactive chart featuring the three in which you can click between the companies on the same scale (may not display well on your phone):
Here’s another version of the comparison in a single chart:
As I noted at the top, I’ll be publishing a forecast for Renault, Hyundai, and Kia next. These automakers seem even more difficult to judge, though. If you have any special insight on any of them, please share it below.
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