Elon Musk has been challenging other automakers to build compelling electric cars for years now, and many are finally picking up the gauntlet. The auto industry is in chaos at the moment due to a critical lack of computer chips, but nonetheless, it has to be a shock to Audi, BMW, and Mercedes — the proud triumvirate of premium German carmakers — to learn that the Tesla Model 3 outsold all of their midsize, combustion engined offerings combined in Germany is September.
September will be interesting
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 17, 2021
As a group, the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, and Mercedes C/CLA-Class racked up 6,100 sales in Germany in September, according to its Federal Motor Transport Authority. Wirtschafts Woche crunched the sales numbers and determined that Model 3 sales totaled 6,800 for the same month. Du meine Güte!
The figures show the Model 3 neck and neck with the always popular Volkswagen Golf. Even after aggregating sales of the A4, S4, RS4, A5, S5, and RS5, Audi was only able to claim 900 sales. BMW sold 3,000 3 Series cars in September, and Mercedes added 2,200 C/CLA-Class sales for the month.
And this is before the new Tesla factory in Grünheide gets going. No wonder Herbert Diess, CEO of Volkswagen Group, told his top managers last week the company needs to dismantle its old factories and replace them with new, more efficient production facilities if it wants to remain competitive with Tesla going forward.
That said, note that Tesla’s deliveries come in waves, with the 3rd quarter of each month dominating delivery and registration numbers. The Model 3 still might not be #1 for year-to-date EV sales in the country. On the other hand, looking at how close it was at the end of August, it may well be the #1 top selling electric vehicle across the first three quarters of 2021 in Deutschland.
True Volkswagen supporters, however, will point out that Volkswagen Group sells a lot more electric models and is far in the lead as an automotive group in plugin vehicle sales (or even pure BEV sales).
Overall, though, the story is the transition away from fossil fuel vehicles. “In September 2020, BMW, Audi and Mercedes were still able to sell more than 11,000 vehicles from their combustion engines in the Model 3 segment, almost twice as many as in September 2021,” Wirtschaftts Woche states. The German news outlet notes that the EV revolution is beginning to gather momentum in Germany. In September, 41 percent fewer gasoline-powered vehicles were sold in Germany compared to the same period the previous year. Sales of vehicles with diesel engines plummeted as much as 54 percent on a year-over-year basis, mirroring the experience of Norway, where diesel car sales have all but evaporated. By contrast, sales of hybrids were up by 11 percent, plug-in hybrids were up 14 percent, and sales of pure electric cars increased by a dramatic 59 percent.
The numbers don’t lie. Electric car sales are surging in Germany as the transition to EVs accelerates. If Germany’s Big Three can’t turn around sales of their cars equipped with infernal combustion engines, their future is very much at risk. Of the three, Volkswagen and Mercedes (in that order) seem to be pushing aggressively into electric cars, but BMW seems to be mostly resting on its laurels and wishing the EV revolution never happened. Of the three, the prestigious company from Bavaria seems most threatened with extinction.