Originally published on opportunity:energy.
The race to electrification continues in Europe. As car markets find their way out of the pandemic, EVs leave a greater mark month after month. Italy saw stronger sales in February following a soft start to the year and electrified vehicles continued to replace traditional powertrains.
The Italian car market extended recent trends in the second month of 2021 (see Unrae data). With around 144,000 total registrations, the overall market was down over 12% year on year (YoY), an ongoing mark of the coronavirus pandemic. Petrol and diesel cars lost more than a third from last year’s volumes, now settling at 32.8% and 25% market share respectively. Traditional hybrid vehicles in turn marked their best performance yet, reaching 28.8% share as the shift to mild electrification of most models continues.
Plug-ins also scored good numbers. Pure electric vehicles grew from January levels, ending at 3,457 registrations or 2.4% market share. This is a 37% YoY improvement, certainly positive but not as strong as in the late months of 2020. This may still be the consequence of the December records, resulting in low availability of BEVs in stock, or an initial push by most brands towards hybrids — most likely a combination of both. We certainly expect BEV share to continue growing, starting next month with quarter end.
Plugin hybrids (PHEVs) were the electric stars of the month, scoring 4,913 registrations, 3.4% market share. This is four times last year’s levels — when only about 1,200 units were recorded — and more in line with the high growth expectations we are getting used to in these times of change. This is surely a sign of legacy carmakers’ current push for hybrids, and perhaps wider acceptance by the market, something to be confirmed over the coming months. Total plugin vehicle share thus increases to 5.8% in February, a 123% increase YoY.
BEV sales in the Italian market always feature peculiar choices, with a greater focus on compact cars compared to most other markets, which lean on larger and more premium models. This makes individual sales so interesting to follow. February’s top 10 BEV chart below shows some important confirmations and surprising misses.
The new Fiat 500e reaffirmed its reign over Italy’s BEV market, taking the best selling spot for the third consecutive month out of four since its launch in October. The Italian mini is definitely the car to beat in 2021. At 583 registrations, it kept the Smart ForTwo at bay. The two-seat city car settled for second place with 545 units, a great result but not sufficient to dethrone the new BEV market leader. At a wide distance, Renault Twingo ZE gained third place with 386 registrations, closing out a very unique Italian podium of A-segment mini cars.
This means the Renault Zoe, Twingo’s older sister and undisputed BEV queen of Italy as well as Europe in 2020, was finally kicked out of the top 3 monthly ranks after a very long time (March 2020 in fact). It scored 296 registration and 4th place. Not far off, Tesla’s Model 3 entered 2021’s top 10 chart for the first time in 5th place at 278 units, a good result for this time of year and ahead of a likely quarter-end peak.
In the lower half of the chart, three e-CMP platform siblings from PSA Group followed: the Peugeot e-208 with 184 registrations, Peugeot e-2008 with 163, and Opel Corsa-e with 157. We will probably see even more of them in the future, as other models from the same platform start selling in volume (i.e., Opel Mokka-e, Citroen e-C4 …) and proving the group’s electrification strategy. The Nissan Leaf (142) and Hyundai Kona EV (134) closed out the top 10 at 9th and 10 place respectively. Very noticeable this month is the complete absence of Volkswagen Group, with the ID.3 and Italy-friendly e-up! and its siblings not selling in high numbers as would have been anticipated.
We can expect the EV market to push upwards in the weeks and months ahead, with higher volumes from usual best sellers as well as more models making their debut. Carmakers will have to adjust their pricing if they want a slice of the cake in this very price-sensitive arena. It’s clear, though, that only compelling mini EVs can truly succeed in this uniquely tough European market.