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German EV Market Reaches Escape Velocity — Record 27% Share In December

Germany, Europe’s largest auto market and the 4th largest in the world, achieved 26.6% plugin electric vehicle share in December. This is a stunning ascent from the 4.0% share seen in December 2019.

Germany, Europe’s largest auto market and the 4th largest in the world, achieved 26.6% plugin electric vehicle share in December. This is a stunning ascent from the 4.0% share seen in December 2019. The Volkswagen brand dominated Germany’s full battery electric sales in 2020, taking almost 24% of the market, with Renault runner-up at 16%.

December’s 26.6% combined plugin share was led by full battery electric vehicles (BEVs) at 14.0% of the market, with plugin hybrids (PHEVs) close behind at 12.6% share. The full year 2020 shares were remarkably even at almost 6.7% BEV and almost 6.9% PHEV, for a combined annual plugin share of just over 13.5%. That’s a huge jump up from 2019’s overall share of 3.0%.

In terms of volumes, Germany’s overall auto market was down 19.1% in 2020, to 2.9175 million. The annual decline was softened by a strong recovery in December, which was up 9.9% year-on-year, at over 311,000 sales. 2020’s plugin vehicle sales grew over 2019 by a huge 263% to 394,632 units.

We can see the growth in plugin electric vehicles over the course of 2020 by observing the evolution of powertrain shares month-by-month:

We don’t yet have the full details of BEV model sales for December, but we do have some information on the top 5 best selling BEV brands for the year as a whole. Volkswagen (with the e-Golf, ID.3, e-Up!, and perhaps a few ID.4) strongly led Germany’s full year sales of BEVs, with almost 24% share of the market:

However, the year’s single best selling BEV model (by far) was the Renault ZOE, with over 31,000 sales. We can deduce that the runner up was a close race between the Volkswagen e-Golf, and the VW ID.3, with the Tesla Model 3, and Hyundai Kona, not too far behind.

Volkswagen’s BEV delivery total rose by a massive ~13,800 units in December alone. Unless the VW ID.4 started delivering in the home market (which is possible), this huge number implies that the ID.3 delivered a flood of vehicles (perhaps around 9,000 units) in the month. If so, the ID.3 would have ended 2020 with a total of around 17,000 sales in Germany, amazing considering the September delivery commencement.

Either way, it looks like the soon-to-retire VW e-Golf may have put in a late rally, and ended with close to 18,000 sales, and so probably took the #2 spot behind the ZOE. But we won’t know the #2 and lower spots for sure until a week or two from now, so keep an eye out for Jose’s model sales report later this month.

Tesla took #3 brand position thanks to the Model 3, which saw around ~15,000 sales, up 66% over 2019’s result. Smart took #4 position, thanks to the Smart Fortwo, helped by the fact that that around 60% of Smart’s European BEV volume is sold into Germany. Hyundai’s ever popular Kona helped the brand attain the #5 spot.

Renault ZOE. Image courtesy of Renault.

After an amazing 2020, what does 2021 hold in store for Germany’s plugin electric vehicle market? In past years in Germany, January has usually started close to the average of Q4 of the previous year (around 22% in 2020), which would obviously lay a strong foundation for 2021.

But it’s hard to say whether this historical pattern will hold again this time, as we move from the disrupted 2020 into an uncertain 2021. I expect Germany will see a 2021 average plugin electric vehicle  share of at least 25%, with December climbing well into the 30s, perhaps even breeching 40% share. But 2021 in Germany will probably produce more surprises.

What do you think? Please join in the comments section to share your thoughts.


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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 MaximilianHolland.com, or contact him via LinkedIn.

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