Tesla Model 3 New #1 in Hot European Market, & Plugin Vehicles Get 16% Market Share!

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The European plugin passenger vehicle market continues to rise, scoring over 227,000 registrations in March (+169% YoY) and putting last month’s plugin vehicle share of the broader passenger vehicle market at 16% share (7.6% fully electric/BEV). That pulls the 2021 plugin vehicle (PEV) share to 15% (6.6% for BEVs alone).

This time growth came from both sides of the plugin electric vehicle market, with BEVs doubling their sales year on year while PHEVs continued surging at a faster pace, seeing their sales jump by 264% year over year (YoY) last month. So, plugin hybrids remained the major growth source for plugins in the first months of 2021.

With a higher than expected end-of-quarter peak, the Model 3 won its second best seller title in a row, confirming its good form this year.

The same can’t be said about the remaining 2020 podium bearers. Last year’s winner, the Renault Zoe, was only 4th in March, while the VW ID.3, the bronze medalist last year, continued to underperform, reaching a low 6th place last month. With VW’s hatchback faltering, all eyes are now on the new ID.4 crossover, which had its first real delivery month in March. It ended up in 5th, already above its slightly older (and shorter) sibling. A sign of things to come?

Looking at March Top 5 Models

#1 Tesla Model 3 — The US sports sedan returned to form by scoring 24,184 deliveries last month, a larger than expected high tide, allowing it to register 4 times more units than the runner-up Hyundai Kona EV. Regarding March, the Model 3 had several 4-digit scores — in the United Kingdom (6,500 units), France (4,524), Germany (3,699), Norway (2,169), Italy (1,363), and Sweden and Austria (1,192 units each).

#2 Hyundai Kona EV — The Korean crossover is already recovering from the pull-forward stunt of the last months of 2020, something that others can’t say the same about. As a result, the Hyundai EV reached the runner-up position in February, no doubt thanks to its competitive range-vs.-price ratio. The distinctive crossover scored 5,643 deliveries last month. In March, Germany was by far the best market for the Hyundai nameplate, with 3,237 deliveries, followed by the United Kingdom (800 deliveries), France (409), and Norway (349).

#3 Volvo XC40 PHEV — The smallest of Volvo’s PHEV lineup is now the the continent’s favorite PHEV. The Swedish carmaker sees its plugin hybrid XC40, like its other PHEVs, as just another trimline in Europe, which leads to more sales. Further, it sits at the heart of the hot compact SUV category. In March, the Belgian-built Volvo scored 5,567 registrations, earning its 3rd Best Selling PHEV title in a row. The markets where the Volvo plugin was in high rotation were Sweden (1,192 units), the United Kingdom (900 units), and Germany (624 units). Without production constraints and currently experiencing strong demand, the compact Volvo is a strong candidate for the 2021 PHEV Best Seller title.

#4 Renault Zoe — The 5,482 registration number shows that the French hatchback is yet to recover from the 2020 year-end peak effort, having seen its registrations drop by two digits last month, an even more worrying event in the context of doubling sales in the European BEV market. In any case, the main markets in March were the usual, with Germany (1,692 units) leading, followed by France (1,519), while Italy (721) was a distant 3rd.

#5 Volkswagen ID.4 — Sitting in the vortex of the current hottest trends (plugins and compact crossovers/SUVs), much is expected from the new Volkswagen, especially considering that its ID.3 sibling hasn’t really set the market on fire. The ID.4 doesn’t have much margin for failure, so it was good to see it start its first real delivery month in 5th, just 500 units behind the runner-up Hyundai Kona EV. With the ID.3 currently failing to run at the same pace as the Tesla Model 3, it’s up to the ID.4 to save VW’s honor in Europe. Regarding March, the German EV had 5,104 units registered, with the biggest market being its homeland, Germany, with 872 registrations. Norway followed, with 856 units, and the United Kingdom was third, with 500.

Looking at the remaining March table, the highlights were several record performances on the table, like the #7 BMW 3 Series PHEV scoring a record 4,957 units, the #10 Peugeot 3008 PHEV hitting a record 4,243 registrations, and the veteran VW e-Up hitting a record 4,206 registrations, an amazing performance for the small EV, helping the German automaker to compensate for the slower sales of the ID.3.

Still on the subject of record performances, and highlighting the great moment Volvo is having, the XC60 PHEV scored another record score — 4,189 deliveries. That was slightly ahead of another record performer, the Peugeot 208 EV — 4,098 registrations — and #19 BMW X1 (3,876).

A mention also goes out to the Nissan Leaf. Thanks to heavy discounts of its 62 kWh version, it jumped to 8th last month, with 4,708 registrations.

Outside the top 20, a mention goes out to the Toyota RAV4 PHEV, with the Japanese automaker continuing to ramp up deliveries of its RAV4 PHEV model. The RAV4 PHEV reached 2,575 registrations last month, a new record for the Japanese SUV and the same number of units registered as the Peugeot 2008 EV (e-2008) — which is also in a slow production ramp-up. The Mini Cooper EV scored a record 3,324 registrations.

Finally, an interesting fact: if we sum all VW Golf cousins’ PHEV sales together (Seat/Cupra Leon + Skoda Octavia + Audi A3), we get almost 10,000 units, which, added to the VW Golf PHEV’s registrations, would bring that model to some 14,000 registrations. That would make it the second best selling plugin vehicle in Europe, only trailing the Tesla Model 3.

Looking at the 2021 ranking, the main news was the Tesla Model 3 shooting up to #1, with the sports sedan having almost a 20,000 unit lead over the #2 Volvo XC40 PHEV.

The remaining best sellers from last year are underperforming. The Renault Zoe is down 39% YoY, while the all-new VW ID.3 is just 12% above what the then veteran e-Golf had 12 months ago. One can already say that this second quarter will be a stroll around the park for the sports sedan from Silicon Valley, possibly securing enough advantage over the competition to allow it to manage a demand defection to the Tesla Model Y or volume surges in the competition tallies. The Model 3 is certainly now the clear favorite to win the 2021 Best Seller title in Europe.

But the Climber of the Month was the Hyundai Kona EV, which jumped 5 spots to #5. The Korean crossover is now aiming for a podium seat.

The BMW 330e also had a good month, climbing to 6th — but, year to date, the BMW midsizer has about a third of the Tesla Model 3’s sales, which says a lot about the impossible uphill battle that the future BMW i4 will have to face….

In the second half of the table, the small VW e-Up continues to climb in the ranking. It’s now in #13, just one position below another rising model, as the Ford Kuga PHEV (Euro-spec Ford Escape) jumped from #16 to #12 in March.

We had three models returning to the table in March, with the most surprising being the Nissan Leaf, up to #16. The VW Golf PHEV was up to #17 and the Mercedes A250e, last year’s best selling PHEV, jumped to #19.

Unlike the model ranking, where we already have a clear favorite, in the automaker ranking, balance is the word, with the 3 top brands separated by just 700 units. Volkswagen, Mercedes, and BMW each have 10% share. The Wolfsburg brand is currently on top, but the differences are so small that anything can happen.

Below these three we have #4 Volvo, with 8%, followed by Tesla (7%), and tied in 6th we have Peugeot and Renault, both with 6% share (Peugeot currently has a 34 unit advantaged over its arch rival).

BEV D-Segment / Midsize Category

Tesla’s midsize sedan lives in another galaxy, having created a sizable distance over the competition. It has seen its sales increase 47% over the first quarter of 2020, and it won’t have significant competition in the next few months, as the Tesla Model Y will only land in the second half of the year.

The Mercedes EQC (2,131 units last month) recovered the second spot, having surpassed the Polestar 2 in March, with the Sino-Swede now being some 400 units behind the Mercedes SUV (4,194 vs. 3,792).

So far, the only other significant midsize BEV was the Jaguar I-PACE (792 units in March), but the BMW iX3 has finally started to be delivered in volume, reaching 566 units last month. Will we see it surpass the Jaguar in the next couple of months?

BEV E/F-Segment / Full Size Category

The Audi e-tron’s domination is unquestionable, but its seemingly never ending growth seems to have finally stopped, with the Big Audi’s current 7,642 units representing an 8% sales drop year over year. Despite this, the Audi SUV seems destined to win another category title this year. With Tesla basically giving up on the Model S & X for the first half of the year, what they will recover in the second half of the year shouldn’t be enough to compensate for the drought in the first half. The #2 model, the Porsche Taycan (1,778 units last month) is too niche to go head to head with the e-tron in the sales charts.

Regarding the remaining competition, the Mercedes EQV luxury van is still in 3rd place, with 431 units, 41 more than the Audi e-tron GT. The Audi sports sedan’s production ramp-up should allow it to reach the podium soon, though, thus putting a Volkswagen Group model in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd.

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José Pontes

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.

José Pontes has 466 posts and counting. See all posts by José Pontes