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Plugin Hybrids Surprise in the Netherlands in 2021 — EV Sales Report

Volvo XC40 PHEV wins January in reshuffled market.

After the usual end-of-year sales rush in the last days of 2020, one would imagine January would bring a big hangover for the local plugin market … but it turns out, it hasn’t, because sales in January grew 40% YoY (year over year)!

But the story is more nuanced than that. The overall market is still down a great deal (-21% YoY) — remember, 12 months ago, Covid hadn’t yet disrupted the market (remember that long gone era?…). Also, fully electric vehicles (BEVs) experienced the expected sales hangover in January (-34% YoY, to 1,336 units, or 3.8% market share) — after a feverish end of the year. The surprising fact of last month was the registration surge of plugin hybrids (PHEVs), which actually had their best January ever, with 3,347 units registered (or 9.5% market share), effectively beating the previous record of 2,099 units set in January 2015, when the Netherlands was a PHEV paradise. Will we see plugin hybrids experience a resurgence?

The answer could be positive. Because they are not influenced by incentive changes, unlike BEVs, the recent uptick from plugin hybrids comes from organic demand, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they regained decent volumes in this market. And perhaps because the BEV Company Car Benefit in Kind reduction is being reduced every year, some buyers are moving away from BEVs back into PHEVs?

With this I am not saying that PHEVs will overshadow BEVs, because the latter should continue to grow fast, possibly starting already in March, but what could happen is that both technologies will continue to grow throughout the year at the expense of the other fuels.

And that is already visible in the January PEV share (13.3%), because while it was lower than the 2020 mark, with 25% plugin share in the whole year (21% BEV), it held steady in the two-digit area while almost doubling the share of 12 months ago (7.2% in January 2020).

So, in a moment of weakness in the BEV field (-34% YoY), plugin hybrids rose to the occasion and allowed plugins to continue growing, leading to a BEV vs PHEV breakdown of 29% to 71%. The important thing is that the market continues to be electrified. Fast.

With the EU’s CO2 emission rules distorting the market, added to the effective sales hangover of a number of last year’s best sellers, there was a complete reshuffle of the top 20. The shock headline was a PHEV starting the year in the lead, with the Volvo XC40 PHEV beating the competition and winning the January trophy, ahead of a true armada of plugin hybrids. In fact, plugin hybrids took 15 of the top 20 places, a stark contrast with the December table, where BEVs had 19 representatives and PHEVs only managed to place the Renault Captur PHEV in the table … and in 20th.

More proof that January registrations have more to do with allocation policies than actual demand and we shouldn’t read much into that is the fact that BMW and Volvo together have 9 models in the top 13 spots. Neither of them needed to make make a year-end rush to meet CO2 emissions standards, so they opted to delay late 2020 deliveries into 2021, allowing them to earn early points this year and take January’s top spots — in some cases even with record scores. The BMW X3 PHEV (163 units), BMW 5 Series PHEV (107), and BMW X1 PHEV (102) each set records, and two other BMWs had their best scores in several years, with the 330e (169 units, best score since December 2016) and X5 PHEV (258 units, best score since December 2015). That was way back when the Netherlands was in the Jurassic era a PHEV-driven market.

Speaking of dinosaurs … the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV was 3rd last month, with 202 deliveries, while in #8 we had a tie between two surprising models. The Ford Kuga PHEV had 117 deliveries (so, it seems Ford’s SUV deliveries are starting to recover), while the Porsche Cayenne PHEV had its best score since December 2015, also with 117 registrations.

On the BEV side, the winner was the MG eZS EV, with 115 registrations. It was the only all-electric model in the top 10, as the remaining BEVs in the top 20 were displaced to the last positions of the table. While the faces of the #17 Kia Niro EV, #18 Polestar 2, and VW ID.4 aren’t surprising to see in this top 20, as they are expected to be top 10 contenders this year. The Nissan Leaf showing up in #20 is something of a surprise, but it appears deep discounts are helping the veteran hatchback to recover some of its mojo.

With so many new models showing up, two famous models got kicked out of the table. The Tesla Model 3 had just 14 deliveries, and the VW ID.3 was not much better, at 58. But do not worry — for different reasons, these poor performances are allocation-related and both should jump to the top of the table in March.

Outside the top 20, a mention goes out to the landing of the BMW iX3 (57 units). The other models shining in January. were all plugin hybrids:

  • The hatchback-disguised-as-a-crossover Kia Xceed PHEV had a record 55 units.
  • The Skoda Octavia PHEV ramp up continues, with the popular Czech model registering 62 units in January.
  • Finally, the Mercedes GLE350e/de yacht registered 51 units last month, the big SUV’s best score since December 2015.

In the manufacturer ranking, BMW started the year in the lead, with 17% share, closely followed by Volvo (16%), while a distant Kia (5%) closed out the podium, followed off the podium by Mitsubishi (4%) and Mercedes (4%).

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Written By

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.


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