Tesla Model 3 & Plug-In Hybrids Boom In November In Europe

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The European passenger plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) market landed some 55,000 registrations in November (+44%), with the Dutch market and plug-in hybrids (+80% year over year, or YoY) pulling the market up the most, while fully electric vehicles (BEVs) were waiting for the 2020 flood (+23%, their lowest growth rate since June 2018). That led to an unusually even breakdown between the two types of powertrains in November (53% BEVs / 47% PHEVs vs. 64% BEVs / 36% PHEVs for the year through November).

With plug-in hybrids picking up speed, PEVs climbed to 4.6% (2.4% for BEVs alone) of the overall auto market. That pulled the 2019 PEV share to a record 3.3% (2.1% BEVs), above the 2.5% result of 2018.

With the two EV best sellers (Tesla Model 3 and Renault Zoe) expected to have strong results in the last month of the year, PHEVs continuing to experience a surge, and the Dutch market expected to have an historic month in December, we should see the European market hit a new record next month.

The big news in November were the big results of several midsize cars. The leading Tesla Model 3 (7,380 units in December, the Californian’s best off-peak performance) worked as the ignitor for legacy OEMs finally going all in on plug-ins in this category, while the BMW 330e jumped to 5th in November, with 2,666 registrations, the model’s third record month in row! With the Bavarian suffering the most bleeding from the Model 3 — after all, it was BMW that used to be known for producing the Ultimate Driving Machine — BMW is hustling hard with its 330e patch, in order to cut the bleeding at least until the i4 antidote is deployed. Though, even other brands not so directly impacted by Tesla, like Mercedes and Volvo, are increasing their plug-in efforts, with the S/V60 PHEV twins from Volvo reaching 828 registrations last month while the Mercedes C300e/de twins hit 1,207 units, the best result for the three-pointed star midsize plug-in since December 2016.

So, while the Tesla Model 3 isn’t creating enough gravitational force to become a black hole, like it is in the US, its strength is forcing the usual suspects to step up their game. Win, win, right?

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Monthly Model Ranking

#1 Tesla Model 3 – The poster child for electro mobility had its best off-peak month so far in Europe, with 7,380 deliveries in November. The Model 3 benefited from the Dutch EV year-end rush, scoring 3,973 units in the Netherlands alone. The UK, possibly the only European market not being starved by the Dutch fever, also helped, as it had some 1,500 deliveries. The remaining markets somewhat “underperformed” (452 units in Norway, 231 in Switzerland, and 225 in France), but that’s because they were affected by the fact that Tesla Netherlands was grabbing every available unit it could get its hands on.

With continuing backlog deployment in the UK and record deliveries expected in the Netherlands, December could see another record month for the Tesla midsizer, even if most of the markets will still be suffering from starvation, which in turn will create (another) delivery peak in Q1 2020. By the looks of it, we should only know the organic demand of the Model 3 in Europe in second quarter of next year, or over a year after the landing of the sports sedan on the European continent. Amazing, isn’t it?

#2 Renault Zoe — The 3,231 deliveries of November meant a drop in deliveries year over year (-39%), due to the current skin change, meaning that some countries saw their registrations drop significantly (Germany, only 321 units). Still, enough units were delivered in key markets (France — 1,866 units, Italy — 253 registrations) to place it in second place. December should see it back on the growth path, with the French hatchback getting ready for a strong start of 2020. It will need it, too, as the Peugeot 208 EV and Opel Corsa EV should start to cast their (small) shadow over the Renault EV in a few months. Will the Zoe get into trouble with those two?

#3 Volkswagen e-Golf — The evergreen German model hit 2,753 registrations last month, dropping 11% YoY, which is still a meritable result for a model that was supposed to be in sunset mode for several months now … and has its successor now starting to roll off the Zwickau factory line. It seems VW is going all in into plug-ins, milking everything it can from its current best selling electric model, even if it isn’t the best EV on the market. Regarding November performances, the Volkswagen e-Golf’s main markets were three, with Germany (925), Norway (803), and the UK (300), gobbling up most deliveries. 

#4 Nissan Leaf — With the 62 kWh version being delivered in volume, the Japanese model hit 2,722 units last month, which is a 42% drop. Worse still, this in the context of a fast growing market. … Ouch. Will the Nissan BEV be able to leave this downward spiral? Unless Nissan cuts prices significantly, and I am sure by now Nissan has more than enough margin to do it, the Leaf is looking irrelevant and outdated, especially next to a certain VW ID.3. Regarding November performances, the Japanese main markets for this model were Norway (535 units), the UK (500), the Netherlands (418), France (241), and Sweden (224).

#5 BMW 330e — The original 330e was launched in Europe in 2015, basically as a compliance PHEV with a symbolic 7.6 kWh battery. Despite that, it still managed to move some metal, sometimes reaching four-digit performances, like the record 1,566 units of March 2017. Things have moved on since then, and the Model 3 started seriously denting the Bimmer’s sales, so the German automaker had a change of strategy for the 2nd generation of the plug-in hybrid. While the specs continue (meh, just a 12 kWh battery, half of what the BMW X5 PHEV has), the sales/production are really at another level, with the German midsizer scoring a new registration record for the 3rd month in a row! BMW had 2,666 deliveries in November, becoming last month’s best selling PHEV. How high the 330e goes is anyone’s guess (5,000 per month?), but I think in this case the limit will be first found on the demand side. In November, the 330e’s biggest markets were the UK (1,100 units), Germany (416), and Portugal (203). What tha? … Yeah, I know — you tell him.

Looking at the 2019 ranking, while Tesla can already arrange the 2019 Best Seller party for the Model 3 and Renault can think about finding a place for the silver medal of the Zoe, 3rd place of the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV now seems certain too, since the #4 Nissan Leaf failed to impress in November and the distance between the models (1,894 units) now seems insurmountable.

The Japanese hatchback should now worry about a 4th spot from the hands wheels of the #5 BMW i3, only 411 units behind.

Below the frontrunners, the Mini Countryman PHEV scored its best result since March, with 1,691 registrations, allowing it to climb one position, to 8th, while the BMW 530e (1,580 units, best score since March) was also up, to #11, switching positions with its 225xe Active Tourer relative.

BMW had another good month. The 330e was on the up, joining the ranking right in time in #20.

The Daimler Group had reasons to smile, with the Smart Fortwo EV and the E300e/de twins climbing one position ‚ the tiny two seater going up to #15, while the luxury sedan went up to #16. 

A mention is due to the #19 Tesla Model S, which had 855 registrations, its best off-peak performance this year, while the Model X scored 697 units — also its best off-peak result this year. 

Outside the top 20, besides the aforementioned good results from several European PHEVs, November brought two other brilliant results, like the popular VW Passat GTE scoring 1,875 units (the model best result of the last 3 years) and the new BMW X5 PHEV scoring a record 1,068 units performance in only its second full month on the market. So, it seems BMW’s long-range PHEV is set to become another success story for the Bavarian maker. Will we see it become the best selling luxury plug-in? 

In the manufacturer ranking, Tesla (18%) is the leader, while 2018 winner BMW (14%) remains firm in the runner-up spot, ahead of Renault (9%) but suffering from a short lineup. Mitsubishi and Hyundai stayed well off the podium with 7% share.

Here are sales charts including “Others” (all other PEV model sales aggregated) if you like to see these:

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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 473 posts and counting. See all posts by José Pontes