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Plug-In Hybrids Pull Up Europe’s Plug-In Market — October EV Sales Report

The European passenger plug-in vehicle (PEV) market recorded some 48,000 registrations in October (+46%), and this time it was the plug-in hybrids (+75% growth year over year, or YoY) that pulled the PEV market up. Fully electric vehicles (BEVs) remained at cruising speed (+26%), leading to a nearly even (51% BEVs / 49% PHEVs, vs. 65% / 35% YTD) breakdown between both technologies in October.

The European passenger plug-in vehicle (PEV) market recorded some 48,000 registrations in October (+46%), and this time it was the plug-in hybrids (+75% growth year over year, or YoY) that pulled the PEV market up. Fully electric vehicles (BEVs) remained at cruising speed (+26%), leading to a nearly even (51% BEVs / 49% PHEVs, vs. 65% / 35% YTD) breakdown between both technologies in October.

With the two EV best sellers (Model 3 and Zoe) expected to have strong results in the two remaining months of the year, the 49% share from PHEVs should remain the peak point for the hybrid technology in at least the near future, especially considering the first months of 2020 should witness strong growth from pure electric models.

With plug-in hybrids picking up speed, they did compensate a lower BEV share in October, just 2%, with an extra 2% share (4% total PEV share). That pulled the 2019 PEV share to a record 3.2% (2.0% for BEVs alone), well above the 2.5% result of 2018.

The big news in October does not show up on the monthly top 5, but immediately below it, with three PHEVs shining. There were record performances for the models in #6 (BMW 330e – 2,399 units), #7 (Mercedes-Benz E300e/de – 2,193), and #8 (Porsche Cayenne PHEV – 1,914). Peak demand? Or are these models becoming a force to be reckoned with? Mmmm….

Interestingly, among last month’s top 5 best sellers, the only performance deserving a mention comes from the VW e-Golf, which registered 2,908 units, a new year best for the veteran model, proving that if the price is right, success is possible, even for outdated models (wink, wink, Nissan…).

Model Ranking

#1 Renault Zoe — The 3,567 deliveries of October allowed it to become last month’s best seller, despite falling deliveries (-15%) due to the current skin change. some countries already have volume deliveries of the “new” Zoe (France – 1,939 units), while others are still waiting (Germany – 452). In the middle of these changes, a mention is due to Switzerland and Spain, each receiving 152 units of the popular electric Renault model.

#2 Nissan Leaf — With the 62 kWh version being delivered in volume, the Japanese model hit 3,028 registrations last month, marking the return of the Leaf to the runner-up spot! But that’s it for good news. Despite the larger battery version’s help, registrations were down 37% YoY (ouch). Will the Nissan BEV be able to leave this downward spiral? I have some doubts, because unless Nissan cuts prices significantly, the Leaf is starting to look irrelevant and outdated, especially next to a certain VW ID.3. Back to October performances, the Japanese model’s main markets were the UK (700 units), Norway (518), France (363), and the Netherlands (286).

#3 Volkswagen e-Golf — The evergreen German model hit 2,908 registrations last month, growing 18% YoY and hitting a new year best, an amazing performance for a model that was supposed to be in sunset mode. Only, it seems VW is going all in into plug-ins, discounting and actively promoting its electric model even if it isn’t the best EV on the market. Add the name Golf and this is proving to be enough to generate demand, even with newer and more competitive models on the market. Maybe other OEMs could do the same? (Yes, Nissan, I’m lookin’ at you). Regarding October performances by country, the Volkswagen EV’s main markets were Norway (740), Germany (723), and the UK (700), gobbling up most of the deliveries. Funny enough, the EV-year-end-rush Netherlands only got 187 units. It seems only Tesla read the Dutch EV fiscal change briefing…

#4 BMW i3 — The German hatchback was up 17% in October, to 2,679 units, with the BMW pocket rocket continuing to expand its sales. Looking at individual countries, Germany (861 units) continues to be its larger market, with the following being the UK (400), Norway (317), and France (246).

#5 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV — During most of the year, the Japanese SUV looked to be the only plug-in hybrid able to run with the best of the BEVs. Ironically, in a moment when PHEVs are having a resurgence, its sales were down 7% YoY, to 2,574 units, only 175 units more than the hot selling BMW 330e. With the 2019 Best Selling PHEV title in the bag, one now wonders if the Mitsubishi model will be able to resist to the competition in 2020. In October, its biggest markets were Norway (550 units), Germany (514), Sweden (351), and France (267).

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 runner-up party for the Zoe, 3rd place could still be up for discussion, as the new #4, the Nissan Leaf, has shortened the distance to the #3 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. However, with 2 months to go and about 1,710 units to recover, the Japanese hatchback would need some impressive performances to overcome its compatriot, and with current Nissan management, that seems hard to achieve. This is a case where the coach change left the team playing worse. (“Yeah, I liked the previous coach, the Brazilian-Lebanese-French guy was much better than the current one,” I hear the Nissan tiffosi comment). But I digress.

Below the frontrunners, the #10 Volvo XC60 PHEV scored its best result since January, with 1,670 registrations, allowing it to climb two positions, while the BMW 530e was also up, to #12.

Volvo had more good news across the lineup, with the XC90 PHEV climbing to #21, while the S/V60 PHEV twins scored 1,026 units, their best score in 4 years, allowing them to reach #23. We could see a Swedish treble in the top 20 soon.

But others did even better, like Daimler Group, with the Smart Fortwo EV scoring 1,681 units, its best result in 22 months, while on the Mercedes side, the E300e/de twins had a record 2,193 registrations, jumping into the top 20 in #17, and the C300e/de twins came out of nowhere to 1,062 registrations in October, the best performance for the Mercedes midsizer since December 2016!

Another model scoring a record performance was the Hyundai Ioniq Electric, with 1,267 units. Will the Korean hatchback get enough batteries next year to continue improving its game? 

Outside the top 20, besides the aforementioned good results from several European PHEVs, October brought a second coming of the popular VW Passat GTE, which scored 1,018 registrations, the revised model’s best result since the beginning of the new WLTP rules, so expect it to lead a large squad of models willing to challenge the PHEV leadership of the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. 

In the manufacturer ranking, Tesla (18%, down 4%) is the leader, but has (predictably) lost ground, while 2018 winner BMW (14%) remains firm in the runner-up spot, ahead of Renault (9%), which suffers from a short lineup. Mitsubishi and Hyundai are just off the podium, each with 7% share.

If you prefer sales charts with “Others” included, here they are:

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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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