27% Plugin Vehicle Share In Germany — Open The Plugin Gates!

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The German automotive market has opened the floodgates to plugin electric vehicles, with December setting yet another record sales month. Nearly 83,000 plugin vehicles (PEVs) were registered in December, resulting in an amazing 27% market share. Full electric vehicles (BEVs) alone accounted for 14% market share in December, making Germany the largest PEV market outside China, beating even the USA by a wide margin (394,000 vs. 330,000).

In a completely disrupted market, while diesel (-31% year over year) and petrol (-20% YoY) were down in December, all electrified categories were shooting up, with conventional hybrids (HEVs) up 133% YoY while plugin hybrids (PHEVs) jumped six-fold — and full electrics (BEVs) did even better, jumping seven-fold. The end of 2020 became a stampede into electrified vehicles, getting to a point where, despite tanking fossil fuel sales, electrified sales allowed the overall market to actually grow 10% YoY in December.

Now, how much these events are related to last-minute compliance with the EU’s CO2 emission rules is anyone’s guess, but regardless of this, it is proof that regulations do work, and when pushed, legacy OEMs are indeed able to comply.

The supreme irony of this is that by forcing local OEMs to move fast into electrification in order to comply with the CO2 emission targets, EU politicians might have saved the local automotive industry from a future death at the hands of Tesla and Chinese OEMs.

But leaving political considerations aside — after all, this isn’t Politico — and getting back to the German plugin vehicle (PEV) report, the 2020 tally ended at 14% (6.7% BEV), so expect 2021 to continue with the current disruption, with an expected plugin share above 20% for plugins and BEVs hovering above 10%.

Looking at last month’s best sellers, in December, the Volkswagen ID.3 was back to #1, with an all-time record to boot (7,144 units), allowing it to reach the 3rd spot in the overall market. The German hatchback finally reached the volumes people expected from it. The next question now is: Will it keep up? Will it be be able to sustain top 5 scores in the overall market? Discuss.

Despite the Renault Zoe being relegated to the #2 spot, the truth is that Renault had plenty to celebrate. Not only did it score another record performance (5,349 units), but the small hatchback was #6 in the overall market and was also the best performing “true” foreigner (the Skoda Octavia was #4, but belonging to the Volkswagen Group, one can’t really consider it a foreigner in Germany…). Being a French model, this is even more extraordinary, as it is well known the problems that French models have in succeeding on the other side of the Rhine. Has Renault found by chance the Magic Potion for future success?

In a top 10 where ALL models had record performances, one should still highlight the Tesla Model 3 crossing north of the 3,000 unit mark for the first time, and the Hyundai Kona EV almost doing the same (it had 2,995 registrations). Also, in #9 and #10, we have two very different Volkswagen BEVs: the brand new ID.4 crossover landed in #9 in its first full month on the market, with 2,306 units, while the veteran e-Up city car scored a record 2,196 units. Adding those 2,196 to the 646 units of the twin Skoda Citigo EV and 382 of the SEAT e-Mii EV, we have the triplets reaching an amazing 3,224 registrations, which would place them in 4th! Not bad.

This highlights another great month for Volkswagen, which placed 5 models (ID.3, Passat, Golf PHEV, ID.4, e-Up) in the December top 10, with 4 others from Volkswagen Group (the Seat Leon, Audi Q5 and A3, and not-yet-dead VW e-Golf) in the top 20!

Other relevant performances concern the Daimler Group, placing 5 models (Smart Fortwo, Mercedes A-Class, Mercedes C-Class, Mercedes E-Class, and Mercedes GLC SUV) in last month’s top 20 — 3 of them with record scores (GLC300e/de, C300e/de and E300 e/de). Below the top 20, the three-pointed-star automaker had 3 other models (EQC — 866 units, EQV — 648, GLA250e — 714) hitting relevant record scores. Now, that is what I call a production ramp up!

In such a high-volume month, record scores were plenty, with three quarters of the models in this top 20 table having best ever performances. Besides the aforementioned, we should also highlight the surprising score of the Mazda MX-30, with 1,509 deliveries … or were they self-registrations? Mmmm…

Outside this top 20, we had more important performances, like the 719 units of the fresh Fiat 500e, which had its first full month in December. There were also the 963 units of the Nissan Leaf, a new record for the extremely veteran model. The current EV fever is clearly strong enough to pull the boats of all models, even of 10 year old ones, forward. Interestingly, Nissan’s Alliance partner Renault is already starting to get significant volumes from models other than the Zoe, with the small Twingo EV scoring 917 units in only its second month on the market and the Captur PHEV getting a record 806 deliveries in December.

Finally, the Volkswagen Group is ramping up another future best seller, with the Skoda Octavia PHEV registering 990 units in only its 3rd month on the market.

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Regarding the final 2020 table, and comparing with the 2019 result, the most immediate thing that appears before our eyes is that the market has diversified significantly. In 2019 we had 8 models with 5% share or more, whereas now we only have one, the Renault Zoe, and to achieve that, the French hatchback had to triple its year-over-year sales.

This is a sign of a maturing market. As plugin markets leave their niche spaces and merge with the overall market, more choice equals more diversity, and therefore best sellers getting lower shares of the total plugin market. Expect this rule to show itself in more countries with high plugin shares.

Looking at the podium positions, leader Zoe won another best seller title in Germany, its 3rd in a row (and last?), while the VW e-Golf ended its career with a bang — with a silver medal! The Tesla Model 3 managed to fend off the VW ID.3 and keep the bronze medal it had earned in 2019.

Still, having jumped from #11 to #4 in December, and missing the podium by just 62 units, one can say that the VW ID.3 had a good month. The German hatchback’s real task starts in 2021, as it is expected to become the 2021 Best Seller in Germany (anything less and Herbert Diess will have a big headache…).

There were other last minute changes, namely in #7, with the E300e/de full size model climbing one position and confirming itself as the default full size plugin choice in this market, something that surely provides good signs for the upcoming Mercedes EQS and EQE.

Speaking of Mercedes, the three-pointed-star automaker had another model climb the table as well, with the GLC300e/de going up to #11 and ending 2020 as the best selling SUV. Expect the Tesla Model Y to draw a big target on the Mercedes GLC’s back.

The BMW i3 was up to #14, but even so, that paled compared to the runner-up spot it had in 2019. Despite dropping just 9% in registrations, stagnant sales in a booming market quickly make the model irrelevant. The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV can testify to that too, going from #4 and the best selling PHEV in 2019 to #15 and more than 6,000 units behind this year’s best selling PHEV, the VW Passat GTE — all despite seeing its sales grow by 8%.

Anyway, highlighting the good moment Volkswagen Group had, the new generation allowed the Audi A3 PHEV nameplate to climb to #17, while the Volkswagen Golf PHEV also benefited from the new generation and rejoined the top 20, in #18.

Expect both models to become familiar faces in the 2021 table, with the Volkswagen PHEV in particular hoping to compete for the category best seller trophy.

In the brand ranking, leader Volkswagen (17%, up 1 percentage point) won this year’s title, finally and solidly beating BMW, while Mercedes (14%) won silver.

Audi (9%) resisted a rising Renault (8%) and kept the last place on the podium, while last year’s best selling automaker, BMW (6%, down 1 point), this time was only 5th — from 22% in 2019 to 6% in 2020 … ouch!

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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