Originally published on opportunity:energy.
Italy’s plugin car market saw a rather soft start to 2021, following a sparkling end of 2020 that was marked by a sense of exuberance. January sales figures show a combination of the hangover from year end, as well as the marks of a new lockdown. Plug-in vehicles, nonetheless, are on the rise in a year-on-year (YoY) comparison.
Following December’s incredible stats for electric mobility, the Italian car market began 2021 with some of the usual trends, and a softening of others (see Unrae data). The overall market saw about 135,000 cars sold, down more than 14% YoY, thus continuing a decline that has characterised car sales since the start of the pandemic. Petrol and diesel registrations are down by a third YoY, settling to 36% and 27% of the market respectively. Traditional hybrids are quickly replacing pure ICE vehicles and now stand at 24.3% share, a trend that is bound to keep growing. Plug-in vehicles, after an absolute blast to mark the end of 2020, recorded an almost inevitable retreat from those levels in January.
Full electric cars stooped to 2,494 registrations, or less than 1.9% market share. While this is a far cry from the previous month’s all-time record of 7,255 units, it is still a 28% increase YoY. Automakers probably rushed the registration of as many full electric cars as they could by year end to meet their fleet-wide average emission target of 95 g CO2/km. This in turn may have led to a temporary low availability of new BEVs, many of which are still production-constrained.
Plug-in hybrids showed a better performance than full electrics, somewhat unusual for the Italian market. At 3,760 units, PHEVs took 2.8% of the market, and almost triple (!) YoY. While this is also far from December records (when monthly registrations topped out at 6,374), it’s a strong start nonetheless compared to other powertrains. We could see PHEVs grow from strength to strength in the coming months, perhaps pushed by car dealerships with more conviction than they would push pure electrics.
Overall plug-in market share thus started off the year at just above 4.6%, less than half the peak levels of the December bonanza, but still almost double the registrations from a year ago — a good foundation for rest of the year. Looking at individual models, let’s see what the chart of the top 10 BEVs has to offer.
The new Fiat 500e started the year where it ended the previous one, in first position. This time, though, it shared the monthly crown with the Smart Fortwo, both scoring 419 units. European champion Renault Zoe followed in third place with 255 registrations, closing out what could become a typical podium in the months ahead. The Opel Corsa-e and Peugeot e-208 siblings trailed in the 4th and 5th position, with 216 and 193 registrations respectively.
Following the top five, two names caught the eye for opposite reasons. In 6th position with 129 units, the Renault Twingo ZE — an obvious podium candidate in Italy’s BEV market — recorded a low that is unlikely to be seen again in the future. On the other hand, entering the top 10 from the very bottom, the Citroen e-C4 made its debut and was the only car in the chart above the B-segment. This is an accomplishment usually achieved by the Tesla Model 3, which is missing altogether this month, as fairly typical at the start of a quarter.
2021 has started off with perhaps unimpressive growth rates compared to what the Italian market got us used to in recent months. It is natural, however, to see a high-growth market catch a breath following a long period of triple-digit rises.
Competition will soon heat up, as the winter hangover fades, pandemic lockdowns ease, and new electric models make their entry on a monthly basis. 2021 is also the year when the new EU regulations for passenger cars come fully into force. With such dynamics brewing in the background, this could simply be the quiet before the storm.