The European passenger plug-in vehicle market scored some 59,000 registrations in September (+76% year over year), with fully electric vehicles (BEVs) stepping up the pace and reaching a record score of 41,001 units, earning its first three-digit growth rate since July 2014 (+109%).
This time plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) were back in the black, growing 28% year over year (YoY), its first growth month since September 2018, when the new WLTP emission rules started, so everything seems aligned for a strong last quarter of the year.
With all-electrics going into warp speed, they were responsible for 69% of all plug-in sales last month (67% year to date). The overall BEV share of the consumer automobile market grew to a record 3.2% in September, and adding PHEVs to the tally brought the share to 4.6%, pulling the 2019 plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) share to 3.0% (2.0% for BEVs alone), above the 2.5% result of 2018.
If we add unplugged hybrids to the tally, we get a 10% share in the overall market, the first time electrified vehicles have reached two digits in Europe. Meanwhile, diesel continues its never-ending slide, now at 29% (33% last year). We could see new registrations of this fuel going extinct in Europe by 2026…
The big news in September was the Tesla Model 3 scoring a new all-time record (17,490 units), beating its own March record (15,768 units), but this might not be the end of it, as December could see yet another record score from the Tesla midsizer. (Related: Tesla Is Starving USA Market In Favor Of EU & East Asia.)
Interestingly, this is the first time in a long time we’ve seen a 100% BEV top 5. The shape of things to come? Like, in 2020?
Top Electric Models in September
#1. Tesla Model 3 — The poster child for electro-mobility had its best month so far in Europe, with 17,490 deliveries. The Model 3 scored five four-digit results (5,768 units in the Netherlands, 2,934 in the UK, 2,342 in Norway, 1,516 in Germany, and 1,061 in France). With the deployment of backlog units in the UK, and a big sales peak expected in the Netherlands, December could see another record month. By the look of it, we should only know the organic demand of the Model 3 in Europe sometime next year.
#2. Renault Zoe — The 3,555 deliveries of September allowed it to continue growing (+28%), regarding last year, an amazing feat for a model that is supposed to be changing its skin, busy deploying the first units of the much improved “new” Zoe. As for individual market performances, the French hatchback continues as popular as ever in its domestic market (1,568 units), and in Germany (634 units), this time with the UK making an important contribution to the tally (235), of the successful Renault.
#3. Nissan Leaf — With the 62 kWh version now being delivered in volume, the Japanese model hit 3,208 units last month, its best result since March, marking the return of the Leaf to the podium, and … that’s it for the good news. Because, despite the larger battery’s help, registrations were still down 22% year over year (YoY). Will the Nissan BEV be able to leave this downward spiral? I have some doubts, as the 62kWh version’s price premium (+/- €7,000) is too steep to make it relevant in the long term. In the long run, either Nissan cuts prices significantly, or the Leaf starts to become irrelevant, especially when a certain VW ID.3 lands. Regarding September performances, the Japanese world record holder’s main markets were the UK (812 units), Norway (585), Germany (308), and France (299).
#4. BMW i3 — The German hatchback was up 30% in September, to 3,110 units, its best result in 6 months, with the BMW pocket rocket benefitting from its unique formula (it is the only premium city EV in town) to continue expanding its sales, following the EV bubble growth. Looking at individual countries, Germany (865 units), continues to be its larger market, with the following being the UK (658) and Norway (398), at a sizable distance. A warning sign?
#5. Volkswagen e-Golf — The evergreen German model hit 2,560 units last month, growing 196%(!) YoY and hitting a new year-best result, an awesome result for a model that was supposed to be in sunset mode. Only, it seems VW is going all in into plug-ins, which means it is actively promoting what it has right now, even if it is an old-timer. Add the name Golf and what that implies and that is generating enough appeal to keep demand up, even with newer and more competitive models on the market. Regarding September performances, the Volkswagen EV’s main markets were the UK (820 units), Norway (645), and Germany (419).
Looking at the 2019 ranking, while Tesla can already organize the 2019 Best Seller party for the Model 3 and Renault can think about finding a place for the silver medal of the Zoe, the 3rd place could still be up for discussion, as the #4 BMW i3 and the #5 Nissan Leaf are shortening the distances between them and the #3 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. However, with 3 months to go and about 2,000 units to recover, the two models have a hard task ahead.
Below the front runners, the #7 Hyundai Kona EV scored its best result since January, with 1,988 registrations (is Hyundai getting more batteries?), while we have a new face in the top 10, with the BMW 225xe Active Tourer jumping to #10, thanks to 1,566 units, its best result ever.
But it wasn’t the only BMW scoring a record result, as the new 330e landed with a bang, with 1,659 registrations, in what is already a new record for the nameplate, allowing it to be #8 in September.
After seeing its customer base defect to the Model 3, the alarms must have sounded at BMW HQ, and the maker may be betting everything on the success of its midsize PHEV, at least until the real Model 3 fighter, the i4, is ready.
Another maker stepping up production is Volvo, with its XC60 PHEV scoring its best result since January (1,516 units), allowing it to climb two positions to #12. Meanwhile, its larger sibling, the XC90 PHEV, also hit its best result in 8 months, with 781 units, allowing it to reach #22, and the S/V60 PHEV twins registered 807 units, with the midsize models looking to get nearer to the top 20.
In the second half of the table, the Smart Fortwo EV climbed to #16, thanks to 996 units, its best result in 20 months. We also have a new face in the top 20, with the Tesla Model X returning to the table at #19 thanks to 1,131 deliveries, its best result in 2019, thus placing the whole Tesla lineup in the top 20.
Outside the top 20, September brought a second coming of several plug-in hybrids. Besides the aforementioned good performances of the BMW and Volvo models, the Audi Q5 PHEV has landed with 421 units, while the revised VW Passat GTE scored 419 units, the nameplate’s best result since the beginning of the new WLTP rules.
Expect some of these models to become regular presences in the top 20 next year, with both the BMW 330e and the VW Passat GTE running for top 10 spots.
In the manufacturer ranking, Tesla (22%, up 1%) is the leader, while 2018 winner BMW (14%) remains in the runner-up spot, safely ahead of Renault (9%, down 1%). Renault needs more models in its lineup (Twingo EV, Captur PHEV, Megane PHEV, Scenic PHEV…) to expand and keep its podium seat from the makers behind it, namely Mitsubishi and Hyundai, both with 7% share.
New Kid on the Block: Porsche Taycan
So, is it a Tesla killer?
Eh … no. Let us be clear: There isn’t one today and there won’t be any “Tesla killer” anytime soon. For that to happen, it would need to be a model with 600 km of range (EPA) selling for €40,000, or 1,000 km of range and selling for €80,000 (1).
Since none of these things are possible at this moment, including for Tesla itself, in the next couple of years, let us pleeeze stop this nonsense of seeing Tesla assassins in every corner — it is becoming almost as ridiculous as Brexit.
So, what is the Porsche Taycan? It is many things, including the first (2) real Tesla competitor, and that was evidenced by Elon Musk himself. After all, when the Audi e-tron was presented, Tesla’s #1 employee must have been like: “e-tron who? Moving on….”
But when the Taycan was presented, along with the Nurburgring lap, Musk jeered the “Turbo” thing (3) and said “Game on!” by sending a heavily modified Model S “Plaid” to the same circuit, proving that Porsche had indeed tickled with Tesla’s pride.
Besides being a Tesla competitor, looking at the broader automotive market, the Taycan is a model that redefines the notion of a “four-door sports car.”
It sits above the executive highway express class of the Tesla Model S / Mercedes E-Class, but below the all-out supercars in the $200,000 and above category.
A bit like a certain Porsche 911 …
With almost 5 meters, the Taycan is a big car, but not that spacious, being a sort of fancier looking Panamera, a bit like the CLS-Class is to the Mercedes E-Class.
Despite a big battery (93kWh), its range is only average (434 km / 270 mi), which is compensated by the 270 kW charging speed, a new best for any production vehicle, with the promise to improve to 350 kW by the end of next year.
With the cheapest one (Taycan 4S standard) starting at $103,000 (€93,000), the Taycan is not exactly cheap, but then again, if you complain about the price of a Porsche … you can’t afford one. Go on and buy a Tesla, or BMW, or Audi, or … whatever you peasants drive.
In the grander scheme of things, what does the Taycan mean for the Legacy OEMs?
So far, dedicated EVs from legacy makers were either “electric car projects,” like the Chevrolet Bolt, meant to be more a compliance/research project for future vehicles than volume models, or had their roots too close to their gas/diesel siblings, like the Audi e-tron, making them appeal to the more traditional customer base but failing to make them exciting propositions for the more progressive part of the market (which is the bulk of the market right now).
An exception could be the Jaguar I-PACE, which is simultaneously exciting and meant to be sold in volumes (it is the best selling Jaguar in a number of countries), but it comes from a niche carmaker (180,000 units in 2018), so even if it became the best selling model of the brand, sales would be just around 50,000 units a year. This lack of scale is one of the reasons why the electric SUV is so expensive.
Porsche press image. Photograph by Christoph BauerPostproduction (Wagnerchic)
With the Taycan now joining the market, Porsche managed to deliver an exciting model in every way (design, drivability, etc.). The model is meant to be sold not only in volume (the projected 30,000–40,000 units in 2021 will put it at the same level as the 911 or Panamera), but serves also as a guiding light for the next chapter of Porsche’s history, the EV era — the maker expects to have 50% of sales coming from plug-ins by 2025.
Also important to mention is the fact that, while Tesla still has a large technological advantage over legacy OEMs, Porsche has demonstrated with the Taycan that the Palo Alto brand can be beaten on certain metrics, in this case regarding charging speed.
While this is a small win, as people won’t stop buying Teslas just because Porsche has them beaten in charging speed, it is nevertheless a sign of encouragement to the other brands to improve their game. If the all-mighty Tesla was beaten once, they can one day get there too.
This is also good for Tesla itself, as decent competition will make it go the extra mile and improve any weak points. (Maybe start with the interiors?)
The Taycan won’t be a disruptive model, like the Tesla Model 3 is right now, but it shows the way to go for legacy OEMs, and within the Volkswagen Group, it is the opening salvo for a battery of new and exciting models, some of which have the potential to disrupt their vehicle classes, like the VW ID.3 (4), VW ID.4x (5), and Audi e-tron GT (6).
(1) And don’t even mention the 0–100 km/h times. Anyone who cares about the difference between 0–100 in 2 seconds instead of 2.5 seconds has serious manhood insecurities.
(2) Well, I’d say the Aion lineup from GAC is Tesla’s first real competitor, but it is limited to China, and GAC does not have the same volume production capabilities as the 4 big Chinese EV makers (BYD, BAIC, SAIC, and Geely), so it should take some time before they pose a real threat.
(3) And rightly so. I think Porsche should have replaced the “Turbo” moniker with “GTS,” and the “Turbo S” with “RS,” making this last one a bit more track focused. Maybe Porsche is preparing a GT2 RS version of the Taycan, in order to beat the Model S Plaid?
(4) Its specs and prices will mean huge demand for it, and poses the question: VW should have enough batteries to sell over 100,000 units per year, but will it have enough to go north of 200,000?
(5) With a starting price said to be around $34,000–36,000, it should be an interesting addition to the crossover market, a sort of cheaper, mainstream Model Y. But pleeeease do not screw up the design of the production version.
(6) There were rumors that Porsche and Audi engineers had several disputes when developing the Taycan/e-tron GT siblings, with Porsche employees saying that their Audi counterparts were “narrow minded,” whatever that meant. Considering the success story of the Taycan, I hope the Audi team has swallowed the humble pill and listened to what their Porsche colleagues had to say, keeping most of the good stuff of the Taycan and making the GT a more livable (and cheaper) Taycan — a sort of Audi A7, but fully electric and with character.
If you prefer to see the sales charts without “Others” included, here you go: