The European passenger plugin vehicle market continues to rise. There were more than 159,000 plugin vehicle registrations in April, and 616,000 in the year to date (YTD). That’s +136% year over year (YoY). The plugin vehicle share of the overall auto market in April was 15% (7.1% fully electric vehicles), keeping the 2021 plugin vehicle (PEV) share at 15% and the fully electric vehicle (BEV) share at 6.7%.
Interestingly, although the overall market was up 23% YoY in April, something that would be expected (after all, 12 months ago, markets were all being disrupted by the Covid pandemic), if we compare April ’21 with April ’19, the overall market was down 25%, which says a lot about the current disruption/electrification process.
Growth came from both plugin fields, with BEVs recovering slightly in the plugin vehicle portion of the market (46% of sales in April vs 45% YTD). That was mostly thanks to the BEV push from Volkswagen Group, allowing the namesake brand to celebrate a 1–2 win in April, a first for the German automaker.
Last year’s winner, the Renault Zoe, was only 5th last month, its lowest standing in over 3 years(!) — so, after the Nissan Leaf (best seller in 2018, 7th in 2020, 16th now) and the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (3rd in 2019, 12th in 2020, now below the top 20), the last bastion of success of the Renault-Nissan Alliance is also suffering. The warning sirens must be ringing in the Alliance’s European HQ.
#1 Volkswagen ID.4 — Sitting in the vortex of the two hottest trends (plugins and compact crossovers/SUVs), much is expected from the new Volkswagen, especially considering that its ID.3 sibling hasn’t yet set the market on fire. … The ID.4 doesn’t have much margin for failure, and so far it hasn’t disappointed. After the 5,000 units of March, April saw it reach 7,565 registrations and win its first monthly best seller award, but one wonders what its cruising speed will be and when it will reach that. Interestingly, the fiercest ID.4 competitor comes from inside the VW Galaxy, and it’s not the ID.3 … (more on that below). The German EV had 3 different country markets in four digits, with Norway (1,824 registrations), Germany (1,446 registrations), and Sweden (1,444 registrations) each scoring 4-digit performances.
#2 Volkswagen ID.3 — After the end-of-2020 registration rush and subsequent hangover, the German hatchback is slowly returning to form, scoring 5,941 deliveries last month, its best score in 2021. That allowed it to return to the podium and deliver Volkswagen a gold and silver medal. Regarding April, the ID.3’s high score was heavily based in its home market, with Germany accounting for almost 40% of the registrations (2,264 registrations), followed from a far by the United Kingdom (815 units) and Sweden (469) at #2 and #3.
#3 Ford Kuga PHEV — After a few battery issues last year, the Ford compact crossover, known as the Escape in the USA, is back in top form, having been last month’s best selling plugin hybrid. It ended the month with 4,300 registrations, thus ending the Volvo XC40 PHEV’s 3 month winning streak. With Ford now launching the much anticipated Mustang Mach-E in Europe, one wonders if the Kuga PHEV will suffer from internal competition in the coming months. In April, Germany was by far the best market for the Ford nameplate, with 1,196 deliveries, followed by the United Kingdom (612 units) and Denmark (630 units). The popularity of the Kuga PHEV in Denmark is a true case study — it was already the best seller in the overall Danish auto market on more than one occasion.
#4 Volvo XC40 PHEV — The smallest of Volvo’s PHEV lineup continues on its road to success, together with the popularity of the XC40 in the overall European market (compact SUVs/crossovers are all the rage now). The Swedish carmaker sold its plugin hybrid version as just another trimline in Europe, and the XC40 PHEV has become a hot seller across Europe as a result. The approach is visible in the sales distribution. In April, the Belgian-built Volvo scored 4,118 registrations, with several markets scoring similar results. Those markets included Germany (540 units), the United Kingdom (562), Italy (532), France (487), and Belgium (474). Without production constraints and experiencing strong demand, the compact Volvo remains the strongest candidate for the 2021 PHEV Best Seller title.
#5 Renault Zoe — The 4,083 deliveries show that the French hatchback is yet to recover from 2020’s year-end peak effort, and one now wonders if demand will ever recover. This is especially worrying when we consider the context of doubling sales in the European BEV market. In any case, the main markets in April were the usual, with Germany leading (1,268 units), followed by France (1,265), and Italy (721) in a distant 3rd.
Looking at the remaining April table, one should highlight the Peugeot e-208 ending less than 500 units behind its arch rival, the Renault Zoe. The Pug could very well win the monthly subcompact/B-segment best seller trophy soon, which would be a first for the small Peugeot and also a mark in the rise of Stellantis as a major force in the market.
Still on the subject of Stellantis, the #6 Peugeot 3008 PHEV and the #10 Fiat 500e had their highest table standings this year, resulting in 3 Stellantis models in the top 10, a new record for the conglomerate.
But looking at the top 20, the OEM with the most number of models was the Volkswagen Group, with 5 models, all BEV. Besides the aforementioned ID.3 & ID.4, the Audi e-tron was 12th, the VW e-Up was 15th, and in #19 we have the Skoda Enyaq, which joined the table right in its first full sales month. Regarding the latter, do not be surprised if the Czech-station-wagon-that-thinks-it’s-an-SUV reaches the top 10 in May. The Skoda EV is currently the most competitive MEB-based model one of the best EVs around, and maybe even the best reasonably priced family EV on the market. It has competitive pricing, space, and practicality, without losing much in premium-ness to its Volkswagen counterparts. Actually, I believe the only thing stopping it from having even greater success is the badge itself. If it had a more popular/”aspirational” badge, it could become the best selling EV in Europe.
Another OEM with a good month was Daimler, with 2 Mercedes models and 1 Smart model on the table. The popular GLC PHEV returned to a top 10 position, while the Smart Fortwo EV continued to post solid results, despite its underwhelming specs.
Outside the top 20, a mention goes out to 4 BEVs in the vicinity of a top 20 position — 2 from Stellantis, the Opel Corsa EV (2,272 units) and the crossover Peugeot e-2008 (2,122); while the other 2 are from the BMW Group, with the Mini Cooper EV (2,283 units) ahead of the veteran BMW i3 (2,043).
Expect the Opel and Peugeot to reach top 20 positions in coming months, something that the Mini should also achieve. As for the German EV … come on, BMW, put a 55 kWh battery in it. The i3 deserves to end its career with a bang, and a new, bigger battery would the the perfect excuse to do so. After all, its design continues to be fresh and it is still the best premium small EV around … and a future classic.
Looking at the 2021 ranking, the main news belonged to the ID family, with the Volkswagen ID.3 jumping two spots to the runner-up spot while the ID.4 joined the table at #8 — no doubt a temporary position, as Volkswagen’s crossover should join the top 5 in May, and from then on, a podium position shouldn’t be that far away.
Now … will it be enough to displace the Model 3 from the leadership position? I doubt it. With the Model Y production delayed, demand should remain strong throughout the next two quarters, and with 15,000 units separating it from the #2 ID.3, i just do not see how can either of the ID models reach within shooting range of the Tesla sports sedan.
A different question is looking at sales by brand or OEM. Currently, Tesla in Europe is a one-trick pony fighting against brands/OEMs with increasingly longer lineups. But more on that later….
Elsewhere, the Climber of the Month was the Ford Kuga PHEV, which jumped 3 spots, to #9. The Spanish-made crossover is now aiming for a top 5 seat.
The Mercedes GLC300e/de also had a good month, climbing to 12th, surpassing the Volvo XC60 PHEV and becoming the new midsize SUV best seller.
Still in the second half of the table, the Audi e-tron climbed one position, to #18, but the big Audi is below last year’s performance levels, when it ended in 5th.
Just below the top 20, we have the #21 Smart Fortwo EV, with 9,846 registrations. So, we have three models (#14 Volkswagen e-Up; #20 Fiat 500e; #21 Smart Fortwo EV) separated by fewer than 2,000 units, something that should make the city car category one of the most exciting races of the year.
Unlike the models, where we already have a clear favorite, in the automaker ranking, balance is the word, but Volkswagen (11%, up 1 point) managed to earn an important edge over Mercedes and BMW, each with 10% share. April possibly signaled the departure of the Wolfsburg brand for a win in the manufacturer race.
Below these three we have the #4 Volvo, with 8%, and in 5th we have Peugeot (6%), now with a 1,000 unit advantage over #6 Renault (also 6% share). In the race between the two French brands, the Lion seems to be gaining momentum at the expense of its rival.
Looking at automotive groups, the Volkswagen Group is far and wide ahead, with 23% share, firmly ahead of Stellantis (14%), Daimler, and BMW, each with 12% share.
Do not expect Volkswagen Group to lose its commanding position in Europe anytime soon, as neither Stellantis (not enough firepower in the higher end of the market) nor Daimler or BMW (not enough firepower in the lower end of the market) are in a position to challenge the VW Galaxy.
As for Tesla, even if the Model Y becomes a resounding hit next year and the refreshed Model S and Model X also meet with success, I do not see them going higher than 14% to 15% plugin market share by 2022, which is significantly more than its current 5%. Even in this optimistic scenario, Volkswagen Group would still have some 18% share by the end of next year.