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Fossil Vehicle Sales In Global Freefall — Down 4.7% In 2019! Electric Vehicle Sales Continue To Grow — CleanTechnica Report

The world’s fossil fuel vehicle sales have continued to freefall in 2019, dropping by around 4.35 million, or some 4.7%, compared to 2018, accelerating a now inexorable trend. Global electric vehicle sales meanwhile have continued to rise, with 2019 EV market share reaching 4.7% in China and 3.8% in Europe.

The world’s fossil fuel vehicle sales have continued to freefall in 2019, dropping by around 4.35 million, or some 4.7%, compared to 2018, accelerating a now inexorable trend. Global electric vehicle sales meanwhile have continued to rise, with 2019 EV market share reaching 4.7% in China and 3.8% in Europe. (Note that “electric vehicles” in this report concerns both fully electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids.)

Peugeot e-208 Press ImagePeugeot e-208. Image courtesy Peugeot

LMC automotive has released its 2019 global auto sales figures this past week, with an overall drop from 2018’s 94.416 million to 90.266 million. The gross figures don’t detail the fossil fuel vehicle vs. EV sales split, but regional EV data (or firm estimates) are now in place for the 3 largest markets (China, Europe, and the US), which together make up almost two-thirds of global auto sales.

Let’s grasp the overall picture via the combined total of combustion vehicle sales and EV sales in these 3 major markets:


The toughest market for combustion vehicles in 2019 was China, with a drop in sales of 8.4% compared to 2018. We looked in some detail at the China figures last week. Here’s an overview:

Apart from the noticeable combustion vehicle drop, we can see that EV sales were also trimmed back slightly in 2019 due to major changes to the NEV incentive policy from July. These changes have now settled, and the EV market will be back to growth in 2020. Importantly, despite this trimming, EV market share actually increased from 4.5% to 4.7% due to the dramatic decline in combustion vehicle sales.

With further fossil fuel vehicle drops forecast for 2020, EV market share in China will almost certainly cross the 5% mark this year, perhaps crossing 6% if the local EV market quickly gets back to growth.


In Europe (EU + EFTA), there’s a different mix of market dynamics at play. 2019 fossil fuel vehicle sales actually increased by a tiny 0.059% (less than one tenth of one percent), largely from a Q4 pull forward (fire sale?) due to the tough CO2 emissions regulations that have now come into effect (2020 onwards). EV sales on the other hand grew strongly, from 407,000 to an estimated 579,000 (provisional figures from EV Volumes, and via José Pontes’ country reports). Here’s the overview:

The ~172,000 increase in EV sales marks a strong 43% growth over 2018, even before the new regulations push things along further in 2020. In market share terms, EVs grew from 2.67% to 3.8%. I’m expecting close to 1 million EV sales in Europe this year, and a steep decline in fossil vehicle sales (to around 14.5 million or less), giving EVs over 6% market share. (Editor’s note: We have a bit of a China vs. Europe EV market share competition now! That’s fun.)

US Market

The 2019 US picture is more mixed. Fossil vehicle sales dropped by 180,000 units, a fall of 1.1%. EV sales meanwhile dropped by 32,000, a fall of 8.9% (data estimates from our friends over at InsideEVs). Here’s the graph:

The US EV market share thus fell from 2.1% to 1.9%. A major cause of lower EV sales in the US is weak US availability of compelling affordable EV offerings (e.g., the Hyundai Kona EV and Kia e-Niro), and very few new EV models in more affordable segments in 2019. In contrast, Europe gets many more electric choices and deliveries of hot models are reportedly prioritized in Europe. Also complicating things is that Tesla had not started shipping the Model 3 abroad in 2018, maximizing US deliveries before a big drop in the US tax credit for Tesla buyers. The Model 3’s arrival in Europe (and China) in 2019 gave those markets a boost that the US market benefited from earlier, in 2018.

The “new” Nissan LEAF 62 kWh is mostly just a larger battery pack (still with no active cooling) and is overshadowed in value by the Tesla Model 3. The updated Hyundai Ioniq EV (38 kWh), on sale for months already in other regions, has still not made it to US shores. Few other affordable new models were available. The MG ZS EV, for example, which went straight into the #5 position in the Netherlands in December, isn’t available in the US, neither is the Renault Zoe, one of Europe’s most popular EVs. More affordable Volkswagen Group triplets also aren’t available in the US. The untimely retirement of the much-loved Chevy Volt, long one of the most popular EVs in the US, also effectively trimmed the market by around 13,400 vehicles.

In short, outside of Tesla, there’s a lack of diverse up-to-date EV offerings in the US, and a woeful lack of available supply for those that are most compelling. Finally, there’s also the waiting-for-Model-Y Osborne effect, which put a damper on 2019 US EV sales (and not just EVs). The Model Y will result in US sales volumes returning to strong growth in 2020.

Tesla Model Y. Image courtesy Tesla

Rest of the World

We’ll have to wait a while longer to learn the fully granular 2019 EV results from other markets, but we know that Canada, Japan, and South Korea will have totaled a little over 130,000 EV sales, and Malaysia, Thailand, Australia, and New Zealand around 25,000 more. Close to 2.3 million global EV sales will be the 2019 final tally, up from around 2.1 million in 2018. Given the 4.15 million drop in global auto sales, we can conclude that fossil fuel vehicle sales were down by around 4.35 million in 2019 compared to 2018.

Overall, the 2019 global EV market share was 2.5%, an increase from the 2.2% market share of 2018. The main growth driver was Europe, whilst we saw China — though still leading in volume and EV market share — pause to refresh its incentives landscape.

All auto market analysts continue to predict falling global auto volumes in 2020, especially in China, Europe, and the US. Conversely, EV sales will continue to grow (Tesla alone may grow by around 300,000 units this year), and we can expect global EV market share to climb to at least 3% in 2020, secured mostly by European regulations pushing back on pollution and emissions. We could potentially see up to ~3.5% global market share in 2020, depending on how quickly China and the US get back to volume growth. Much depends on just how precipitously fossil fuel vehicle sales continue to fall. Either way, it’s a certainty that fossil fuel vehicles will continue to move towards their end game and will fall again in 2020.

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Max is an anthropologist, social theorist and international political economist, trying to ask questions and encourage critical thinking about social and environmental justice, sustainability and the human condition. He has lived and worked in Europe and Asia, and is currently based in Barcelona. Find Max's book on social theory, follow Max on twitter @Dr_Maximilian and at, or contact him via LinkedIn.


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