After months of record sales, the French plugin passenger car market hit the brakes in January, dropping 1% YoY (year over year). The blame fell on the all-electric models, which fell a steep 41%, to 6,471 units, while plugin hybrids continued their surge (+115% YoY), to 8,220 registrations. That meant that plugin hybrids had 56% of plugin sales, a new record for the technology in what is traditionally a BEV-friendly market.
Despite this slow start, because the overall auto market drop was more pronounced (-6% YoY), the 2021 plugin vehicle (PEV) share started at 12% (5.1% for BEVs alone), which is already above the 2020 score of 11% — and miles away from the 3% of 2019. So, everything points to the French market going north of the 15% mark this year, and maybe even reaching 20%.
Has disruption hit the French market for good?
Looking at January best sellers, the Peugeot e-208 has beaten the Renault Zoe for the first time since last April, and adding insult to injury, it wasn’t the only Peugeot model to beat the Renault model!
The crossover Peugeot 3008 PHEV became the first plugin hybrid to win the monthly best seller trophy in France, by beating both the Zoe and its e-208 sibling. That was thanks to a record 1,410 registrations. The result also meant a historic one-two win for Peugeot at home, relegating the Renault EV to the 3rd spot for the first time in 8 years!
But one shouldn’t read too much into these numbers, as they had more to do with allocation issues than actual demand. After all, in January, the Renault Zoe’s deliveries were exhausted by the “all hands on deck” effort of December, as Renault did everything to keep the Zoe on the top of last year’s European leadership scoreboard. And on the flip side, because PSA had already complied with the EU 2020 emission rules, Peugeot delayed some December deliveries into January, allowing the the company to have an unprecedented peak last month.
Peugeot had 4 models in the top 13 spots (the e-2008 crossover was #11 and the 508 PHEV midsizer was #13), while Stellantis, the new group that resulted from the fusion between PSA and FCA, had 8 models in the top 20. Besides the Pug models, Citroen’s C5 Aircross PHEV midsize SUV was 6th, the premium SUV DS 7 Crossback PHEV ended January in 8th, the cute Fiat 500e was 9th, and the Opel Corsa-e reached 15th last month.
And with the Citroen C4 EV and Opel Mokka EV in ramp up mode, we could have even more Stellantis models join the table. …
But January wasn’t only about the newly formed Stellantis, as Hyundai–Kia also had reasons to smile, with the #5 Kia Niro EV scoring a record 748 registrations, becoming last month’s best selling foreigner, while the Hyundai Kona EV registered 475 units, ending the month in #7.
Towards the end of the table, a reference goes out to the Mercedes GLE350e/de in 16th, highlighting a new trend in France. Because plugless high-end SUVs are seeing their taxes being increased significantly, due to the French CO2-based bonus/malus system, buyers of this kind of vehicle have to go PHEV (or BEV) in order to dodge the heavy taxes. So, in the future, it won’t be a surprise to see several models on the table. Besides the big Mercedes, we also have the BMW X3 PHEV in #17, Volvo XC60 PHEV in #18, and another Mercedes in #20, with the midsize GLC PHEV closing out the table.
With Stellantis going full speed in January, Peugeot (24%) has started the year in the lead, displacing Renault (16%) from the top spot for the first time in 90 9 years! It seems Renault’s walk in the park in its home market could be nearing the end, with Stellantis as a group now having a commanding 37% share.
In 3rd place, and far from the two French arch rivals, we have Kia, with 7%. Its bronze medal is much thanks to the success of the Kia Niro EV and XCeed PHEV. Kia is followed by Citroen (5%) and Volvo (4%).
And all of a sudden, the French EV market has become one of the most interesting to follow.