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Tesla Model 3 = #1 Vehicle In UK, & Electric Vehicles Hit 34% Market Share

The Tesla Model 3 was April’s best selling vehicle in the UK, as combustion vehicle sales fell by over 98% to fewer than 3,000.

The Tesla Model 3 was April’s best selling vehicle in the UK, as combustion vehicle sales fell by over 98% to fewer than 3,000.

Bolstered by similar resilience from the Jaguar I-Pace and other full electrics, overall, plug-in vehicles were relatively unscathed despite the coronavirus crisis and took an unprecedented 34% of the auto market. Volume as a whole was down over 97% in April, a concern for the wider UK economy.

Full battery electric vehicles (BEVs) scored 1,374 sales in April, down 9.7% year on year in absolute terms, yet claiming a record 31.8% of overall UK auto sales due to the overall market’s slump. Plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) did not fare so well, with just 95 sales (2.2% of the market).

The best selling BEVs were the Tesla Model 3 (658 sales, #1 top seller overall), the Jaguar I-Pace (367, #2 overall), and the Nissan LEAF (72, #8). The highest selling combustion vehicle was the Vauxhall Corsa (264, #3 spot), but an as yet unknown proportion of these Corsa sales were also likely the new electric powertrain variant.

The 4,321 overall auto sales in April represent the lowest volume since February 1946. The coronavirus lockdown’s impact on private auto buying was particularly stark, with just 871 sales. Non-consumer public service fleet purchases contributed most of the market volume (3,090 units), according to UK industry association the SMMT.

The SMMT is currently forecasting around 1.68 million UK auto sales in 2020, down from 2.3 million in 2019. The only comparative bright spot is the BEV market, predicted to shift over 77,000 units this year (some ~5% of the total market). With PHEVs expected to move slightly less volume, the combined market share of plug-in electric vehicles looks on track to hit 8% or 9% in 2020.

Editor’s note: Other circumstances aside, we have long known that the Model 3 and other competitive electric vehicles would perform exceptionally well in the UK starting around this time. A Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAML) study shared exclusively with CleanTechnica late last year indicated a tremendous advantage in 3 year total cost of ownership compared to fossil-fueled competitors due to some policy changes arriving this year. For more on that study, see: “Bank of America Merrill Lynch: UK Tesla Model 3 & Other EV 3-Year Total Cost of Ownership Analysis Shows EVs Much Cheaper than Fossil Competitors.”

There is wide concern for the health of the UK’s overall manufacturing economy, of which the motor industry is a significant portion:

“With the UK’s showrooms closed for the whole of April, the market’s worst performance in living memory is hardly surprising. These figures, however, still make for exceptionally grim reading, not least for the hundreds of thousands of people whose livelihoods depend on the sector. A strong new car market supports a healthy economy and as Britain starts to plan for recovery, we need car retail to be in the vanguard. Safely restarting this most critical sector and revitalising what will, inevitably, be subdued demand will be key to unlocking manufacturing and accelerating the UK’s economic regeneration.” —Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive

It’s hard to celebrate Tesla’s #1 spot against the background of the crisis and economic lockdown. It is, however, interesting that BEV sales have held up comparatively well in April, suggesting an unusual commitment from electric buyers to get hold of their new vehicles in the face of unprecedented challenges. We’ll have to wait to see the emerging picture in the coming few months to know whether this reflects a real phenomenon or is more an artifact of the typically longer lead time for BEV deliveries.

Tesla Model 3 and Jaguar I-Pace images from respective brands.

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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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