Tesla Model 3 Shatters Records In Hot European Market — EV Sales Report

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The European plug-in electric vehicle market registered a record 77,000 vehicles in December (+88%!), with the Dutch market most helping to pull the market up. Fully electric vehicles (+91% year over year) grew a bit faster than plug-in hybrids (+81%), with the powertrain breakdown becoming even more friendly to fully electric vehicles (68% to 32% in December, versus 64% to 36% in 2019).

The 64% share in 2019 is a massive 13% growth for pure electrics compared to last year, when they had just 51% share. I remember, at the time, we were celebrating the fact that for the first time in 4 years 100% electrics were finally outselling plug-in hybrids. … Oh, how the times have changed!

Last month’s sales surge pulled the final 2019 count to a record 564,000 units, a 45% increase compared to 2018, while the brilliant performance in December allowed plug-ins to reach 6.1%  last month (4.1% for full-electrics, or BEVs, alone). That pulled the final 2019 plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) share to a record 3.6% (2.2% BEVs), well above the 2.5% result of 2018.

Will the plug-in share reach 6% this year? More? Please place your bets!

In December, several models profited from the Dutch sales rush, leading to record results. None did it more spectacularly than the Tesla Model 3, with the Californian shattering the all-time record in Europe (22,137 units in December). The runner-up Renault Zoe also pulled a year-best performance out of the hat last month, meaning that the French hatchback has already ramped up the revised version and should be preparing to reach new heights in 2020.

Another big winner from the Dutch sales fever was the Audi e-tron, which reached 3rd in December, with a record 4,225 units moved. It seems that Audi has already made it through its own production hell and is ready to find its demand limits. The veteran VW e-Golf was 4th, with an amazing 2,998 units registered, its best result in 13 months. With this kind of performance, the old geezer seems to be saying: “ID who? Never heard of it!”

A final mention goes out to the #6 BMW 330e, which registered 2,996 units, the model’s 4th record month in row. The Bavarian is probably suffering through the biggest bleeding from the Model 3 blackhole effect. BMW is going all-in for the 330e patch in order to cut the bleeding, at least until the i4 antidote is deployed.

Looking at the Monthly Model Ranking

#1 Tesla Model 3 – The poster child for electro mobility had a memorable month. It had 22,137 registrations in one month, a new record for any single plug-in vehicle in Europe. The Model 3 was a big beneficiary of the Dutch EV year-end rush, scoring 12,053 registrations in the Netherlands. Deliveries in the UK also contributed a lot, ~2,700, and there were three other markets with four-digit performances (1,251 units in Norway, 1,188 in Switzerland, and 1,250 in France). Several other markets also hit sizable three-digit scores. With part of China’s Model 3 demand now being locally made, it is expected that Tesla will find more room to satisfy its domestic market, as well as Europe, so we should start to know the organic demand of the Model 3 on this side of the pond this year, in what could be the Model 3’s peak year — since, in 2021, a certain Model Y will create its own black hole effect.

#2 Renault Zoe  The 4,700 deliveries of December meant falling deliveries (-14%), but it was still the French hatchback’s best result in 2019, meaning that the production ramp up of the revised version is mostly done and now it is ready to start 2020 on a full charge, something that will prove to be important further along in the year, because while its most direct competitors (Peugeot 208 EV, Opel Corsa EV, VW ID.3…) will spend the beginning of the year trying to not screw the production ramp up, the Zoe will be delivering thousands of units across the continent from day 1. Back to December, France pulled the usual heavy lifting, with 2,097 units registered, but this time the Netherlands also had a four-digit score, with a record 1,020 units registered, with Germany (780 units) and Switzerland (385 units is neutral) being also major markets for the cheeky EV.

#3 Audi e-tron — With initial production problems now a thing of the past, the big Audi hit a record 4,225 units last month, winning its first monthly podium seat. And while most of them (3,054 units) went to the Netherlands (BiK change), the fact is that e-tron has good growth prospects for 2020, thanks to the new (and cheaper) 71 kWh battery version and the launch of the interesting Sportback version, which adds a bit of flair to the dull exterior design of the regular e-tron. But it wasn’t just the Netherlands pulling the e-tron’s heavy weight, as Norway (282 units), Switzerland (245), and Germany (182) also helped the Audi EV to reach the medals.

#4 Volkswagen e-Golf — The evergreen German model hit 2,998 units last month, up 44% year over year (YoY), being its best performance in the last 13 months, which is an amazing result for a model that is supposed to be in sunset-mode for months now and has its successor now starting to roll of the lines in the Zwickau factory. It seems VW is going all into plug-ins, milking everything it can from its current best selling electric model. Regarding December performances, the Volkswagen EV main markets were Germany (764), Netherlands (691), Norway (525) and Switzerland (348). By the way, have you noticed that Switzerland features among the major markets of all top 4 E’s? Will Switzerland be the next Norway?

#5 BMW i3 — The German hatchback was up 21% in December, to 2,997 units, with the BMW pocket rocket benefitting from its unique formula (at least until the Mini Cooper EV and Honda e land, it is the only premium city EV in town — possibly making it a future classic). Looking at individual countries, Germany (630 units) and the Netherlands (768) were its largest markets, with the next ones being the UK (320) and France (485).

Looking at the 2019 ranking, the Model 3 can say like Julius Ceaser: “Veni, Vidi, Vici.” — “I came, I saw, I conquered.” The Model 3 even gave a couple months’ head start to the competition in the beginning of the year. Eventually, though, the Californian basically kicked everyone’s butts on its way to the top, leading the table since last March and becoming the first Tesla to win Europe’s best seller award, while being also being the first time since 2010 that a Tesla reached the podium. Disruption, anyone?

The Renault Zoe, a two-time winner (2016 & 2017), won another silver medal last year, its 4th so far (2013, 2015, 2018, and 2019). This is the longest standing model on Europe’s podium, having been there since 2013, was the French hatchback, securing the #2 spot in March. Further, 3rd place will got to the two-time winner (2014 & 2015); then Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV flight. The Outlander PHEV also collected its usual best selling SUV and PHEV titles, although the BMW 330e has beaten it in the last two months of the year for the latter one…

Will we finally see some competition in the plug-in hybrid field in 2020?

In December, there were a few last-minute changes, the most important being the Audi e-tron going up to #8, making that 7 BEVs in the top 8. Revealing, isn’t it?

Below the frontrunners, the Mercedes E300e/de twins were up two places, to #14, while the new BMW 330e jumped 3 spots, to #17.

A mention goes out to the #16 Kia Niro PHEV, which registered just 301 units, its worst performance in over 2 years. This was the clearest example of the “only deliver units in 2020” order made by Kia Europe. 

Outside the top 20, December brought a number of brilliant results, like the #21 Volvo XC90 PHEV scoring 1,312 registrations. That was the Swede’s best result in 4 years. The new BMW X5 PHEV scored 1,453 units, its second record performance in a row. The Audi Q5 PHEV continued its dominant position, having registered 847 units last month. 

But the Surprise of the Month was the 1,336 units of SAIC’s MG ZS EV, by far the best result of any Chinese plug-in in Europe.


Looking at some sub-categories, the Renault Zoe kept its B-Segment trophy, same as the Nissan Leaf in the C-segment, despite dropping from #1 in 2018 to #4 now. The midsize car category went to the Tesla Model 3 (and it should stay with that in the foreseeable future), while in the luxury category, the #8 Audi e-tron surpassed last year’s winner, the Tesla Model X (#9 last year), in the SUV category. The BMW 530e won the luxury car category, despite dropping from #8 in 2018 to its current position at #11. The Tesla Model S, meanwhile, fell 14 positions, from #6 in 2018 to #20 in 2019.

Finally, the multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) category was once again won by the BMW 225xe Active Tourer. The the small crossover race is indeed slow at this point, but the Mini Countryman PHEV lost the title to the Hyundai Kona EV.

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In the manufacturer ranking, Tesla (20%) won the best seller trophy, being not only its first win in Europe, but also its first podium appearance since 2010.

Three-time winner BMW (2016, 2017, & 2018) had to settle for the runner-up spot, with 13% share and well ahead of #3 Renault (8%, down 1 percentage points). The French brand is returning to the podium, despite suffering a short lineup, with Hyundai (7%) ending in 4th.

Looking into 2020, the Tesla Model 3 should build on its current success, possibly reaching some 120,000 units, while below it. Renault should start the year in a firm 2nd spot, possibly reaching some 80,000 units by the end of the year, and Volkswagen will try to ramp up production of its ID.3 as fast as it can, so it can collect this year’s bronze medal, with around 60,000–70,000 units.

I expect the European EV market to reach close to one million units in 2020, which would be a great prelude to the following year, 2021, as it would mean that by then, firm two-digit shares would be possible, and that would be the point where all hell breaks loose EVs become the new normal, and we can order the ICE coffin in Europe.

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

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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 467 posts and counting. See all posts by José Pontes