Tesla Model 3 Three-Peats in Record Year
After a rough start of the year, the second half of 2020 became a record-fest, with 3 record months in the last 4 months of the year, December being one of them thanks to over half a million registrations.
With plugin registrations jumping 105% last month, it was the first time since 2011 that we had 3 consecutive months (October, November & December) of doubling sales, which is a great sign for what 2021 could be.
While BEVs (full electrics) were a hot item last month, jumping 81% to a record 407,000 units, PHEVs (plugin hybrids) were even hotter, shooting up 205% in December. The latter ended the year with 31% of plugin sales, up 5 percentage points from the 26% of 2019. Those who said that PHEVs will still be around for a while get bonus points.
December’s brilliant result has allowed the full 2020 numbers to increase 41% compared to 2019, a step above the 2019 growth rate (+10%) and nearly a return to the 50%-ish growth rates that plugins have experienced historically, since start of the Third Age of the Electric Car started back in 2011.
With the overall automotive market in the red (-14% in 2020), and the amazing recovery of plugins on the second half of 2020, the December PEV share jumped to a record 6.9% share (4.9% BEV), pulling the final 2020 plugin share to 4% (2.8% BEV), results that are well above the 2.5% plugin share (1.9% BEV) of 2019.
The future will depend much on the development of the pandemic and the seriousness of the economic crisis, but expect plugins to weather the storm better than the overall market, increasing their share on the way to some 6–7% in 2021, and in 2022 … The Disruption Zone is coming, with the first two-digit monthly scores.
The high-tide mode Tesla Model 3 won another monthly best seller title, with over 65,000 deliveries in December, a new record, while rising star Wuling Mini EV also scored a new record, 33,489 registrations, last month. That’s the Wuling Mini EV’s 6th record score in a row. Nonetheless, the tiny EV seems to be hitting a plateau of 30,000-something monthly deliveries, which could be related to production constraints or reaching its demand limits.
The surprise of the month came in third, with the Volkswagen ID.3 jumping onto the podium for the first time thanks to a record (and somewhat unexpected) 28,000 registrations in December. Such a high number could be related to the EU’s CO2 emission compliance rules, so we will have to see if the German hatchback will be able to replicate this performance soon. Say, in March?
In the remaining positions of this top 5 we have the #4 Renault Zoe and #5 Tesla Model Y, which have beaten their personal records as well.
Just outside this top 5, a mention goes out to two other EVs landing five-digit scores. The Hyundai Kona EV scored an unexpected 12,000 registrations, which could be its last record score in a long time, considering the upcoming arrival of the much awaited Hyundai Ioniq 5 could seriously hamper the sales of its smaller sibling. The 7th* model above the 10,000 registration marker in December was Great Wall’s ORA Black Cat (formerly known as the R1), which has received a second youth with the renaming. This is a model to follow closely in 2021. (*A year ago, only two models, the Tesla Model 3 and BAIC EU-Series, got above 10,000 December sales.)
On the final 2020 table, the Tesla Model 3 won its 3rd consecutive best seller award, with no real competition in sight. It looks like 2021 could be its 4th title in a row, which would equal the number of titles that the Nissan Leaf has won so far (2011, 2013, 2014, and 2016).
The Wuling Mini EV secured the silver medal, beating the previous annual score/record of BAIC’s EU-Series (111,000+) and becoming the Chinese EV with the highest score in one year. It also won the Rookie of the Year title, ahead of heavyweights like the Tesla Model Y and Volkswagen ID.3.
The Renault Zoe earned the bronze medal, its first podium finish ever, which says a lot about the progress of the French EV, which has been around since 2012. This is something its Japanese relative, the Nissan Leaf, can’t say. It is currently the most medalled EV in active service, with 7 podium positions, 4 of them as best seller, but it was down to 7th in 2020, having seen its sales drop by 19% compared to 2019 in an overall recovering market.
While some go down, others rise to the occasion, like the case of the Tesla Model Y, which started its career in 4th, missing the opportunity to have two Teslas in the podium, a feat that has been eluding the Californian maker since the beginning. Or anyone else, for that matter. …
In December, the Climber of the Month was the Volkswagen ID.3, which jumped from #19 in November to #6 in the last stage of the race, allowing it to join the top 10 and become the best selling plugin in its class, but more on that later. …
Other position changes benefited small Chinese EVs, with the Baojun E-Series climbing to #9, the Great Wall ORA Black Cat jumping to #10, and the Chery eQ reaching #17, underlining the most recent trend in China: the rise of city EVs. But more on that later. …
On the PHEV side, the 2020 Best Seller trophy went to the Volkswagen Passat PHEV. Thanks to strong results in both China and Europe, the German midsizer won the category title, which was a first for the German conglomerate.
Interestingly, the best selling PHEV was only #12 in 2020, while in the previous year, we had two plugin hybrids in the top 10 (BMW 530e/Le and Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV), and this is despite PHEVs increasing their share in 2020. This can be explained by the much greater model diversity currently on offer and sales being distributed more evenly among the several models on the market.
In the second half of the table, the Peugeot 208 EV was ousted from the top 20 by the Li Xiang One, with the startup model reaching the #20 position in its first year on the market, which could be a good omen for the future.
Finally, outside the top 20, one model deserves special mention, with the rising BYD Han EV (29,000 units in 2020) ending the year on a high note (9,000 units!). The flagship BYD is likely to become a familiar face in the 2021 table. If we were to add the PHEV version to the tally, the extra 11,500 units would allow the big BYD to be #16 this year, ahead of the BMW 530e/Le and only behind the 2020 full size best seller, the Audi e-tron. Not bad for a model that only landed during the summer … but more on that later.
Manufacturers: Tesla 3-Peat
High-tide mode Tesla managed to win another monthly best seller title in December, and with a record to boot — 91,000 registrations. Meanwhile, Volkswagen managed to beat the SGMW joint venture for the first time since September, while Mercedes was pushing the pedal to the metal in December in order to comply with the EU’s CO2 emission rules, allowing it to be #4 in December with an amazing 32,000 registrations.
After a walk in the park in 2020, Tesla repeated its 2018 and 2019 Best Seller titles, with the Californian now having 3 titles in the bag, as many as Nissan (2011, 2013, and 2014) and BYD (2015 to 2017). So, it looks like Tesla will go ahead of those two in 2021, as it looks like no one is in a position to challenge Tesla for the 2021 title.
Volkswagen won its first podium position in 2020, which is not bad (it’s actually quite good) considering the company was still in “year zero” of its plan to rule the EV world. And recovering BYD won its 6th podium position in row, even if it lost the runner-up position it had in 2019 to rising Volkswagen.
The SGMW joint-venture was up one spot in December, to #4, relegating BMW to 5th, just ahead of a rising Mercedes. Of the German premium-class trio (Audi, BMW, Mercedes), the three-pointed-star looks to be the most dynamic at the moment, and with several models to launch in 2021 (just BEVs — the EQA, EQB, and EQS), expect it to beat the other two by a reasonable margin while trying its luck for a top 5 spot.
By the way, in a record month, there were records galore — 16 in this top 20, to be exact. Besides the aforementioned, Shanghai Auto (SAIC) scored over 20,000 registrations in December, allowing it to climb one position to #10 and highlighting another great month for the SAIC Group (in the same month, SGMW was up to #4). Meanwhile, Chery was up to #18, thanks to a record 8,962 registrations.
Even Nissan had a good month, with the 8,590 units of December being its best score since November 2018, pulling the Japanese brand to #14, just 7 spots below its #7 position in 2019.
Interestingly, Porsche (5,662 registrations, a new record) and NIO (record 7,007 registrations) kept their top 20 positions from 2019, a small feat for what are niche brands.
SGMW — SAIC + GM + Wuling — is a joint venture between Wuling, General Motors, and Shanghai Auto in which the last one owns 50.1% of the joint venture, the American automaker has a 44% share, while Wuling has 5.9% of the joint venture.
Here’s a look at the 2020 segment winners:
A-Segment / City Cars — This is all about Chinese EVs. The Wuling Mini EV is miles ahead of the competition, followed by the Baojun E-Series and Great Wall ORA Black Cat. Which says a lot about who will be in the pole position when (and if) autonomous pods become a thing. Back to 2021, the only non-Chinese EV with any fighting chances to run with the best will be the Fiat 500e, which actually plays in a different, more premium-oriented, class.
B-Segment / Subcompacts — The Renault Zoe (100,000 units) was followed by the Hyundai Kona EV at some distance, while in 3rd we had the Peugeot 208 EV. With 32,000 deliveries, it was somewhat below expectations. Maybe the main difference between the two French arch rivals has to do with the level of commitment of each automaker to EVs?
C-Segment / Compacts — The Volkswagen ID.3 (57,000 registrations) stole the show at the last stage of the race, taking the title from the usual winner, the Nissan Leaf (56,000). Another change concerned the GAC Aion S, which profited from the career-end of the VW e-Golf — the Aion S surpassed the German EV and took the category’s bronze medal.
D-Segment / Midsize — Tesla Model 3 (365,000). Followed by another Tesla (Model Y — 80,000). Far from these two, we have the VW Passat PHEV (45,000). And if we exclude PHEVs, then the 3rd best becomes the Jaguar I-PACE, which just managed to beat the Mercedes EQC (17,000 vs. 16,000), with the high-priced sports SUV benefitting from a peak in December (a record 4,868 registrations) to surpass the German SUV.
E/F-Segments / Fullsize — Audi e-tron (48,000 registrations) is the new Top Dog, ahead of 2019 winner BMW 530e/Le (41,000) and rising Li Xiang One (33,000). If we were to consider the BYD Han EV and PHEV versions counted together, then we would have the big BYD holding the silver medal, which, considering that the large sedan only landed in the summer, is an awesome performance, making it the strongest candidate to win the category’s 2021 title. Counting only BEVs, then we would have the Tesla Model X (33,000) in 2nd, followed by the BYD Han EV (29,000), which would still stay ahead of the Tesla Model S (22,000) and the niche Porsche Taycan (20,000). For 2021, with the e-tron suffering from internal competition (Audi Q4 e-tron), the title is very much open. The Model X is expected to rebound (48,000?), the first full year of the BYD Han EV could propel it to some 50,000–60,000 in the whole of 2021, and don’t forget the Li Xiang One, which has been a sort of dark horse, doing its own thing without much noise. Expect this category to have one of most exciting races in 2021.
See previous reports on global EV sales.