While the overall automotive market continues falling off a cliff — it was -22% year over year (YoY) in December — Europe’s passenger plugin electric car market had a near-record month, with 280,200 registrations. That almost beat the 281,000 registrations of December 2020, which was inflated by the CO2 mandate rush.
This impressive result, added to the steep drop of the overall market, allowed the December plugin vehicle share to surge to a record 29% share. There was 19% full electric vehicle (BEV) share alone. The 2021 numbers rose above 2 million plugin vehicle sales, with the 2021 PEV share ending at 19% share (10% for BEVs alone). This is a significant departure from the 11% of 2020, and a far cry from the 3.6% of 2019. I think we can expect the 2022 plugin share to end above 25% (30%?), and with the plugin market merging further with the mainstream market, we are already witnessing some interesting events in the overall markets. For example, in 2021, the two European automotive markets that grew the most were Iceland (+36%) and Norway (+25%), which, incidentally, are the two markets with the highest plugin share on the continent.
And looking at the European electric car market in December, the automakers with the highest growth rates were SAIC’s MG (+116% YoY), which had nearly 100% of its sales coming from plugin vehicles; the heavily electrified Porsche (+35%), with the German brand now having the majority of its registrations coming from plugin models; Tesla (+34%); Mini (+14%), which had one third of its sales coming from its electrified lineup; and Dacia (+11%), now profiting from its rising star Spring EV, which represented 18% of all of the Romanian automaker’s deliveries in December. … So, as we can see, December gives a sneak peak of what will happen throughout 2022. From now on, if OEMs want to grow their sales, they need to have heavily electrified lineups, with plugins representing a sizable portion of their sales. It’s do or die. So, let the games begin….
In December, the electric car market had a record month (181,641 registrations, +7% YoY), but PHEVs dropped significantly (-13% YoY). That was PHEVs’ first sales drop since August 2019. So, while plugin hybrids ended 2021 with the same share they had in 2020 (46%), December tells a different story. BEVs’ share of plugin sales jumped to 65%, a full 11 percentage point jump over the full year result. Will this monthly result provide any type of guidance for the evolution of both technologies in 2022?
Last month’s best seller was the Tesla Model 3, followed by the veteran Renault Zoe and the rising star Dacia Spring, with the Sino-Romanian keeping the Tesla Model Y and Volkswagen EVs off of the podium.
Looking at December’s top 5 models in the electric car market:
#1 Tesla Model 3 — The 2021 best selling EV in Europe had a record 27,445 deliveries, which is an 11% improvement over its previous best, set a year ago. That allowed it to be the best selling model in the overall market in December! And it was this close to beating the all-time record of 28,110 units set a year ago by the VW ID.3. Considering the increased internal and external competition that the midsizer will experience in 2022, will this result be peak Model 3 in Europe? Something to discuss over the next year…. Back to December, the sports sedan was focused on the three biggest EV markets in Europe, the UK (9,500 deliveries), Germany (6,096 deliveries), and France (3,959 deliveries), with Norway (1,968 deliveries) being a distant 4th. Expect the Model 3 to continue competing for #1 throughout 2022, but this time, is has to divide the spotlight with the Made in Germany Tesla Model Y, which should start to cast its shadow over its lower riding sibling in the second half of the year.
#2 Renault Zoe — Despite ending only in 2nd, December was another great month for the French EV, with 11,393 deliveries of the Renault model. That was its only 5-digit score in 2021, with the automaker profiting from a mature manufacturing capability that allows it to respond quickly to demand. Last month, the main markets were France (3,532 units) and Germany (4,571 units), with Sweden (1,029 units) a distant 3rd. Expect the Zoe to continue competing for a podium position during 2022, unless, of course, the all-new Renault Mégane EV starts to cast its shadow.
#3 Dacia Spring — In another sign of the Rise of China as an EV powerhouse, with three Made in China EVs present in this month’s top 5. In December, we had Dacia’s star EV scoring another record result, thanks to 8,148 deliveries, with the small crossover hitting consecutive record scores ever since it started to be delivered to the general public back in September. That means that the production ramp-up is still ongoing. When and where will the Sino-Romanian peak? With a few countries still to receive significant volumes of the little Dacia, expect the Spring to score a few more record results in Q1 and Q2 of the current year. We might see it score 5-digit scores by then, which would allow it to compete for the monthly leadership position. But enough of futurology, and back to last month’s performance. France was the best market for the Dacia nameplate, with 2,787 deliveries, followed by Germany (1,842 units) and its native Romania (1,531). Italy (805) was in 4th, at some distance behind the others.
#4 Tesla Model Y — Tesla’s most recent nameplate in Europe had 8,085 deliveries, which in normal times would grant it a podium seat. But in a near-record month, this only got it a 4th spot, losing to the #3 Dacia Spring by fewer than 100 units. Expect the Y to behave much better during 2022, especially after the beginning of summer, once MiG (Made in Germany) production is ramped up to decent volumes. Unlike the Model 3’s focus on the bigger European countries, the crossover’s main markets have a definite Scandinavian tone, with Norway (2,379 units), Sweden (1,532 units), and Denmark (772 units) being the top markets, along with the Netherlands (908 units). Interestingly, the Model Y’s deliveries in Europe’s biggest market, Germany, amounted to just 566 units. (Yep, it’s the MiG Model Y creating an Osborne effect on its own MiC Model Y twin.)
#5 Volkswagen e-Up — The EV version of this 11 year old model (the Up has been around since 2011) was, surprisingly, delivered in large volumes last month. A massive 7,708 units were delivered. For some, it might not sound like much, until you realize that the little e-Up had 2,000 deliveries … in the whole year of 2019! With the Volkswagen ID.1/ID.2 still a few years off, one wonders what Volkswagen will do with its city EV until then. Moving on, the e-Up had the bulk of its deliveries in Germany (5,343 units), followed at a distance by small-car-friendly Italy (460 units) and the UK (450 units). With rumors circling that its Czech (Skoda Citigo EV) and Spanish (SEAT e-Mii) siblings could end their career soon, in theory, the small German EV should have more production allocated to itself in the Bratislava plant. So, 2022 might end up being a positive year for the veteran model, unless, of course, the VW head honchos decide to use the factory lines for a different (and more profitable) purpose….
Looking at the remaining December best sellers, the Nissan Leaf was #7, with the 6,214 registrations of last month representing the hatchback’s best result ever in Europe, confirming that the current EV Force is so strong that even an old Jedi like the Leaf can pull some tricks from their swords.
In such a great month, 10 models out of this top 20 hit personal records. Besides the aforementioned, we should also mention the Mini Cooper EV (5,129 units), Audi Q4 e-tron (5,078 units), Hyundai Ioniq 5 (5,024 units), and even the cute-as-kittens Renault Twingo EV, which surprised many by scoring a record 4,304 registrations. (Or were they self-registrations? Hmmm….) That’s a small feat for the little EV, considering it is sandwiched between the popular Renault Zoe and the disruptive Dacia Spring.
In the PHEV category, the #11 Mercedes GLC PHEV took the December prize, with a year best 5,116 units, ending ahead of the revised #15 Volvo XC60 PHEV, which once again proved the adage “bigger battery means bigger sales” right. Will the Swedish midsizer once again become a leader in its category?
Outside the top 20 there is a lot to talk about production ramp ups, new models landing, veterans scoring big results before being sent off for retirement, etc.
Let’s start on this last topic. The 8-year-old BMW i3 scored its best result in 33 months in December, with 3,343 registrations, and weeks later it was revealed that the quirky hatchback would be sent for retirement this summer. It is a shame that the still fresh BMW i3 will be sent to greener pastures when it is selling in decent volumes, but I guess it’s like that Neil Young song: “It’s better to burn out than to fade away.” You will be missed, i3.
In the size above, a reference is due for the landing of the fully electric Volvo C40 crossover, a more sports casual take on the compact crossover thing than its more upright XC40 sibling, which delivered 968 units. In the same spirit of the sports casual look, the VW ID.3’s less formal Spanish sibling, the Cupra Born, had 2,399 sales in its second month on the market. Lastly, the Mercedes EQA continued its slow production ramp-up, scoring 3,223 deliveries in December.
Looking at midsizers, the stylish Kia EV6 had 3,129 registrations in only its 3rd month on the market, while the Polestar 2 continued to benefit from the cheaper versions to score a record result of 3,130 registrations. The BMW iX3 is also starting to reach relevant volumes, having gotten a record 3,236 registrations.
Finally, when it comes to the full size category, we have one significant model ramping up, with the BMW iX scoring 2,026 units in only its 2nd month on the market. That is still not enough to bother the Porsche Taycan, which had a record 2,785 registrations, or the leader Audi e-tron (3,178 registrations), but 2022 will give plenty of time for BMW’s top
rodent electric SUV to ramp up and possibly remove the big Audi from the category leadership position.
Looking at the 2021 ranking, the Tesla Model 3 secured its 2nd Best Seller title on a yearly basis, after its 2019 trophy, with the midsize sedan being the first EV to beat the 100,000 unit mark in Europe. This allowed it to be #17 overall and, more importantly, to be the best selling model in Europe among midsize models. It was the first model in decades to beat the three German premium auto brands in this category.
The runner-up spot had a change in the last month of the year, with the Renault Zoe surpassing the VW ID.3 thanks to a strong performance in December, but despite winning silver in the last stage of the race, the Renault EV lost the Best Seller title to the Tesla Model 3 and saw its deliveries dip 27% compared to 2020. It has 99,000 registrations in 2020 compared to the current 75,000. And this is in a year of significant growth, which raises the question: Are the Zoe’s wrinkles starting to show?
As for the VW ID.3, the compact EV repeated last year’s bronze medal result, increasing its registrations by 22% compared to the previous year. It ended the year ahead of its bigger sibling, the ID.4, which ended its first full year in 4th.
How will the 2022 race go?
A few months ago, I would say: Tesla Model Y. But now, things are less certain. Since the MiC Model Y landed, the behavior of both Tesla midsizers has been more nuanced — while the Model 3 continued strong, mostly thanks to Europe’s big EV markets (Germany, UK, and France), the Model Y performances have disappointed somewhat. While the low numbers in Germany were already expected, and the Model Y hasn’t yet landed in the UK, the crossover’s behavior in France and a few middle-of-the-table markets hasn’t been as significant as expected. It could be due to the lack of the short-range version, the MiG Model Y’s Osborne effect, or even allocation policies, but the truth is that, with the MiC Model Y not being delivered in Model 3-like numbers, MiG Model Y volume deliveries only starting in the second quarter, and possibly lower demand for the Model 3, due to the greater appeal of the MiG Model Y, we could see a scenario where you would have two Teslas on top but with less volume individually than the Model 3 had in 2021. And that could lead to other models having a shot at competing with both until the end of the year. That’s a bit of what happened in 2021 in Germany, with the VW e-Up and ID.3 racing ahead, only for the Tesla Model 3 steal the show in the last stage of the race.
By the end of Q1, we should have a better idea of how things will develop, but until then, let’s go back to the final stage of the 2021 race.
The Kia Niro EV took the last month of 2021 to climb one position, to 5th, thus making it a 100% BEV top 5. Meanwhile, the Skoda Enyaq jumped to #8 and the VW e-Up ended the year in #13, a significant step up from the 18th spot of 2020.
In the PHEV League, the Ford Kuga PHEV took the category title without much effort, but it will have a hard time retaining the title this year.
Looking at the size categories, the new Fiat 500e took the city car title without a sweat, replicating the Italian model’s success in the mainstream city car category. In the size above, the prize went for the consistent leader, the Renault Zoe, replicating the success of the Renault Clio in the ICE market. In the compact category, it was down to the VW ID.3 to take gold, replicating once again the behavior of the VW Golf in the mainstream auto market.
In the categories above, the Tesla Model 3 had no real competition among midsizers, while in the full size category, the Audi e-tron repeated its 2020 title in 2021 — but sales have dropped 11% compared to the previous year, so it will become easier for competitors (namely, the BMW iX) to displace the big Audi from the leadership position.
Finally, with regard to light commercial vehicles (LCVs), the Renault Kangoo EV once again won the title, with over 10,000 registrations. That doubled the result of the category runner-up. But looking at sales by OEM, the leading Renault–Nissan Alliance ended only 2,000 units ahead of Stellantis. Once again, the multi-brand strategy from Stellantis — Peugeot, Citroen, Opel/Vauxhall, and Fiat all play in this field — hurts Stellantis at a model level but ends up benefiting them at the OEM level.
In the passenger vehicle brand ranking, Volkswagen (10% share) replicated last year’s result and won the automaker title again, followed by Mercedes (9%), which also replicated its result from last year by winning the silver medal. Meanwhile, BMW (8%) took the last place on the 2021 podium, returning to a medal position after getting 4th place in 2020.
Off the podium, Tesla (7%) ended ahead of Audi, Renault, and Volvo, which had 6% each, with the German automaker ending just 1,000 units ahead of Renault and 3,000 in front of Volvo.
Who will be #1 in the electric car market in 2022? The race is too close to call to say right now who can win the brand title, but one thing is certain — with the market maturing and diversifying, at the same time that it is merging with the mainstream market, expect the market shares of the frontrunners to be further eroded. The 20% share that Tesla had in its 2019 win is a thing of the past.
With the European mainstream market being highly fragmented, the VW Golf won the 2021 model title with just 2% share, and Volkswagen took the brand title with 11%. Peugeot was 2nd with just 6%. The winner will be lucky to have 10% share of the market by year end.
It will be a good sign if the top positions became less premium-populated. As we saw before, out of the 2021 podium positions, two were premium brands, while in the mainstream market, the highest ranked premium brand is 4th (BMW). It would be nice if we saw Peugeot, Hyundai, Kia, or Skoda joining Volkswagen and Renault in the race for the top positions. That would mean that plugins had really gone mass market, instead of the current situation where the more expensive parts of the market are heavily electrified while the cheaper ones still have a lot of work ahead.
With the mainstream top 10 being made of B-Segment/subcompacts (seven models), A-segment/city cars (one model), and C-segment/compacts (two models), in order for the plugin market to really replace the ICE top sellers, the EV top spots need to have more small EVs like the Renault Zoe or Fiat 500e, which are currently the only two small EVs in the plugin top 10.
Finally, looking at the OEM level, December brought a lot to talk about. While #1 Volkswagen Group (24%) had no problem winning the electric car market top spot again, Stellantis (13%) was 2nd with some degree of comfort. Behind these two, there were four OEMs ending with 10% share, with BMW Group surpassing Daimler in the last days of the year and winning the bronze medal by just 200 units. The 5th position also changed hands, with the Renault–Nissan Alliance profiting from strong results across the board (Renault Zoe and Twingo EV, Dacia Spring, Nissan Leaf…). That allowed it to surpass Hyundai–Kia, pushing the Korean OEM to 6th. #3 BMW ended the year separated by just 10,000 units from #6 Hyundai–Kia.
With such a balanced race for bronze, the 2022 race for the electric car market seems even more appealing, as Tesla and Geely–Volvo should join the race too….
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