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Open The Plug-In Hybrid Floodgates! Germany EV Sales Report

Something clicked in the German plug-in vehicle market after the summer holidays. The market had a record month (9,452 registrations) in September, and then October came and set a new record, this time 26% above the previous one! 11,926 plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) were registered, more than doubling last year’s result. With China’s PEV market in post-subsidy blues, this is a welcome boost to global sales. Now if only the US market helped to carry the burden…

BMW i3

Something clicked in the German plug-in vehicle market after the summer holidays. The market had a record month (9,452 registrations) in September, and then October came and set a new record, this time 26% above the previous one! 11,926 plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) were registered, more than doubling last year’s result. With China’s PEV market in post-subsidy blues, this is a welcome boost to global sales. Now if only the US market helped to carry the burden…

top 20 electric vehicles in Germany

Despite fully electric vehicles (BEVs) continuing to grow at a fast pace, +47% year over year (YoY), this time all the lights were focused on plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), +248%!!! With several models hitting record results, the PEV share reached a record 4.1%. PHEVs alone hit a best ever 2.4%. Following October, the 2019 plug-in share rose to 2.9% (1.7% BEV).

October brought a surprise leader to the monthly leadership, with Mercedes opening the floodgates to the E300e/de twins. The luxury twins hit 1,564 deliveries, a new monthly record for any plug-in hybrid in Germany. Suddenly, the current PEV record of the Tesla Model 3 (2,224 units last March) doesn’t seem so unattainable…

Mercedes-Benz E300e

Photo courtesy Daimler

But the Daimler Group didn’t stopped there, with the smaller Mercedes-Benz C300e/de coming out of nowhere to 3rd, with 748 units, a new record for the midsize nameplate. Further, both Smart models shined, with the smaller Fortwo EV ending the month in 4th, with 746 units, its best result since December ’17, while the slightly larger Forfour EV reached 320 units, its best score in 19 months.

The remaining two spots in the top 5 went to the local heroes, the BMW i3 (#2, with 861 registrations) and VW e-Golf (#5, with 723 registrations), with the second one continuing to impress with its vitality even while its successor shows up on billboards everywhere.

Top 20 electric vehicles in Germany

Regarding the year-to-date (YTD) table, remember last month when I said the BMW i3 only had a 10% chance of becoming the 2019 best seller?

Well, things have changed for the better for the Bimmer, with the leader Renault Zoe scoring just 458 registrations last month, its lowest result this year, due to the current generation change, and the Tesla Model 3 delivering the usual slow first-month-of-the-quarter performance (221 units). The German hatchback took the opportunity to displace the Californian from the runner-up spot, while at the same time reducing the distance to leader Renault Zoe to just 124 units.

With only two games (months) to play, this is now a 3-horse race, with only 431 units separating the top 3. The BMW i3 continues to depend on two unknown variables: how fast the new Zoe be delivered in large volumes, and whether the Model 3 allocation will be impacted by inflated deliveries in the Netherlands.

If the Zoe and Model 3 underperform next month, then the BMW i3 could earn just enough distance to sustain the December peaks of its two competitors and win the Best Seller prize.

One thing is certain, this is probably the most exciting race among the top markets, so don’t forget to bring the popcorn…

BMW i3 BMW i3

Off the podium, there’s plenty to talk about. The Mercedes-Benz E300e/de twins jumped 4 positions, to #7, and could even aim for a top 5 spot by year end, and that’s despite arch rival BMW 530e also scoring a personal best — but its 543 units pale next to the 1,564 of the Mercedes twins. Anyway, not all is bad, as this performance allowed the 5 Series to climb to #9.

In fact, this result from the 530e was just one out of many record results in the BMW stable, as the Bavarian carmaker apparently also opened its PHEV floodgates, leading to record results for 5(!) of its plug-in hybrids. Besides the aforementioned 530e, the 225xe Active Tourer (592 units), the new 330e (438 units), the new X5 PHEV (76 units), and even the 745e barge (129 units) hit their personal bests last month.

But the PHEV resurgence didn’t ended there, with the #14 Mini Countryman PHEV scoring a record 321 units while the #20 Volvo XC60 PHEV scored a new personal best performance for the 2nd time in a row (158 units).

While we see good performances coming from plug-in hybrids in the top 20, outside the ranking the numbers are also significant: the new Audi Q5 PHEV had 147 registrations, and one of the surprises of the month was the Porsche Cayenne PHEV hitting an amazing 596 units, a new record for any Porsche nameplate.

In the middle of all these PHEV record numbers, there was one BEV also achieving a personal best — the revised Hyundai Ioniq Electric profited from its first full month to score a record 269 registrations.

In the brand ranking, BMW (22%, up 2%) is the clear leader, with Tesla (11%, down 1%) keeping its advantage over #3 Renault (10%, down 1%).

Off the podium, we have Mitsubishi (8%), followed by Volkswagen, Mercedes, and Hyundai, each with 7% share and trying to catch the Japanese brand.

Midsize Car Best Sellers

Rank Model October
1 Mercedes-Benz C-Class 5,742
2 VW Passat 4,475
3 BMW 3 Series 4,426
4 Audi A4 3,010
5 Skoda Superb 1,864

With the Tesla Model 3 in an off month, we have just two models with a significant degree of electrification in the top 5 of this category. The leader Mercedes-Benz C-Class has 13% of sales coming from its PHEV versions, while the #3 BMW 3 Series has 10% share.

The #2 VW Passat only has 3% share coming from its PHEV version, but expect this to increase significantly in the coming months, while the #5 Skoda Superb is also said to start delivering its PHEV version in a couple of months. Which will leave the Audi A4 as the only unplugged model in a few months … and until when?

Midsize SUV Best Sellers

Rank Model October
1 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class 4,895
2 BMW X3 2,213
3 Audi Q5 1,737
4 Volvo XC60 1,586
5 Mitsubishi Outlander 838

While the top 2 models are (still) very much fossil fuel models, the remaining models are already electrified in various degrees — 8% PHEV share of the Audi Q5, 10% share of the Volvo XC60, and 61% share of the Mitsubishi Outlander.

This last performance raises the question: When will Mitsubishi make the Outlander an entirely plug-in model?

Anyway, 3 electrified models out of 5 is already something.

Full Size Car Best Sellers

Rank Model October
1 Mercedes-Benz E-Class 5,511
2 Audi A6 3,341
3 BMW 5-Series 3,159
4 Volvo S/V90 454


BMW 7-Series

Mercedes-Benz S-Class



Funny enough, with the exception of the #2 Audi A6, all other models in this class have PHEV versions, and this month we have some pretty decent shares in their overall sales. The leader Mercedes-Benz E-Class hit 28% and the #3 BMW 5 Series reached 17%, the same value as the Volvo S/V90 twins. While tied in #5, with 378 units, the flagship BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class, meanwhile, had very different plug-in shares in their portfolio — 34% for the BMW, 9% for the Mercedes.

Full Size SUV Best Sellers

Rank Model October
1 BMW X5 1,333
2 Porsche Cayenne 1,189
3 Mercedes-Benz GLE 1,031
4 VW Touareg 945
5 Volvo XC90 557

The full size SUV category is also increasing its electrification share, with leader BMW X5 slowly increasing its plug-in share (6% of sales now come from the PHEV version) and the #5 Volvo XC90 growing its PHEV share to 15%, while the Porsche Cayenne increased significantly its electrification share (50% of sales!) last month. Is the Taycan success inspiring Porsche to move faster into plug-ins?

With the new long-range plug-in hybrid version of the Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class set to land soon and the BMW X5 PHEV expected to increase sales significantly in a couple of months, the VW Touareg will become the only unplugged model among the best sellers.

For how long, Volkswagen?

If you like seeing the charts with “Others” included, here are those:

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Written By

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.


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