Tesla Siblings & Wuling Mini EV Shine in Hot EV Market — Global EV Sales Report

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Plugin vehicle registrations were up an impressive 173% last month, to some 531,000 units. That made March the second best month ever for plugin vehicles, only behind the 571,000 units of last December. Full electric vehicles (BEVs) jumped 145%, to some 351,000 units. Overall, we might be seeing the plugin market hit well over 5 million units this year.

The impressive results this year, with over 1.1 million units being registered already in 2021, pulled the 2021 plugin vehicle (PEV) share to 5.8% (3.8% BEV), which is already significantly above the 4% of last year — all thanks to a record score in March of 8.2% (5.4% BEV). Expect the growth to continue growing throughout the year, to a large single-digit number. Disruption (e.g., two-digit market share) on a global level is looking set to happen in 2022 the last months of this year….

The future will depend much on the development of the pandemic and on the economic recovery, but whatever happens, expect plugins to weather the storm better than the overall market, increasing the PEV share along the way.

All top 5 models of March repeated their February standings, with the three podium bearers beating their personal bests. The Model 3 in particular set a big new all-time monthly record for a single EV model, with close to 76,000 units delivered. Will we see it beat the 100,000 unit mark some month this year?

The top 3 are really in a league of their own, with these 3 models alone representing almost 30% of March deliveries.

Just below this top 5, we see some surprises. The Hyundai Kona EV returned to form in #6, with 7,623 units delivered, while the veteran Nissan Leaf surged to 7th thanks to 7,511 units delivered, and the newcomer Volkswagen ID.4 started its career officially in 8th, with 6,568 units registered. Expect it to reach five-digit scores soon.

On the plugin hybrid (PHEV) side, the best selling model was again the Volvo XC60 PHEV (6,081 units). The Swedish automaker also got its second 1–2 win in a row, as the Volvo XC40 PHEV (5,812) was the category runner-up. Both Volvos hit record scores last month, highlighting the Swedish automaker’s good moment.

In the year-to-date (YTD) rankings, the Tesla Model 3 returned to 1st place, and the 30,000 unit advantage it has over the #2 Wuling Mini EV should be enough to keep the tiny Chinese EV at bay during the next couple of months.

The Tesla Model Y has secured its bronze medal position, distancing itself from the #4 BYD Han EV. The midsized crossover is now preparing its first assault at the runner-up spot in June.

The first position change outside the podium happened in #6, with the Nissan Leaf jumping four positions (discounts do indeed help to move metal …), even allowing the veteran model to improve on its 2020 position (#7) and keep the best seller status in compact class. (Where are thou, ID.3?…)

The BEV side had other models on the rise, like the Hyundai Kona EV jumping 9 spots, to #8. The Korean crossover is now the new king in the subcompact class (B-segment), while the Audi e-tron joined the top 10 while recovering the best seller status in the full size class.

In the second half on the table, a reference goes out to the BMW 330e climbing to #18, with 11,798 units registered, which is less than one tenth of the Model 3’s deliveries….

After a long absence, we salute the return of the Chevrolet Bolt, in #20, with the GM EV scoring a record performance of 6,123 units last month.

Outside the top 20, the #21 Peugeot 208 EV keeps knocking on the door, with the French hatchback now 700 units behind the aforementioned Chevy Bolt.

Manufacturers: Tesla Firm in #1

Tesla’s March score (108,398 units) represented not only a new all-time high, but also the first time we see a six-digit score on the monthly table, consolidating the expectation that Tesla will end the year with over 800,000 units.

Looking at the EV maker’s numbers in more detail, one might say that both sides of the Tesla fence are right:

  • Pro-Tesla analysts are right to say that the “Tesla demand cliff” is a myth, as deliveries have jumped 109% YoY, and we can expect them to continue at similar rates during most of the year, possibly also during 2022.
  • But anti-Tesla analysts are also right to say that competition is “stealing share” from Tesla. While, in absolute numbers, the EV maker will continue to grow in the foreseeable future, that growth will come at the cost of fossil fuel models more and more — Tesla’s share within the plugin market is now dropping. New models from the competition are being launched seemingly every day, and the plugin vehicle market is growing faster than Tesla. In Q1 2020, Tesla had 19% share, versus the current 16% share, and it should lose a couple more percentage points by the year end. (The same applies for the BEV market — Tesla had 29% of the BEV market in Q1 2020, and now it has 25%).

But then, who is winning share year over year?

There are a few. Besides the obvious case of SGMW, which came out of nowhere to its current 9% share, the most unexpected for me is Mercedes, which now has 5% share compared to the 3% of 12 months ago, thanks to its long and strong lineup of PHEVs and an ever expanding BEV lineup (at this pace, Mercedes will run out of alphabet letters for its EQ range in about 2 years …). Once a laggard, Mercedes is starting to threaten arch-rival BMW, with the three-pointed-star automaker climbing another spot in March, to 6th.

Great Wall’s ORA, which has an ever expanding lineup, is helping the Chinese automaker to gain share, from the 1% of March 2020 to its current 3%. Meanwhile, little NIO has managed to survive in the shark tank and is gaining scale, now having 2% of the global plugin vehicle market. Now that survival is assured, I believe it is time for the Chinese EV startup to go for an adventure into overseas markets.

Finally, Ford has also increased its share, by 1 percentage point, thanks to the return to normal of the Ford Kuga/Escape PHEV and the addition of the Mustang Mach-E.

But let’s return to last month’s performances. Volkswagen is recovering from a poor start of the year and climbed to 4th. The same story applies to Renault and Hyundai, with the French producer up to #12 while the Korean jumped to #16.

Far from the spotlight, Toyota is slowly climbing the table, now in #14 thanks to the (slow) production ramp up of the PHEV version of its RAV4 best seller. The Japanese automaker registered a record 10,226 units last month. Do not rule Toyota out of the race just yet….

Outside the top 20, a reference goes out to Porsche. Thanks to a record 6,077 deliveries in March, it is the new #21, and fewer than 600 units away from a top 20 spot, an outstanding performance for such a niche (and expensive) brand.

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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 472 posts and counting. See all posts by José Pontes