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World EV Sales — Tesla Model 3 Wins 4th Consecutive Best Seller Title in Record Year

After a strong start of the year, the second half of 2021 brought a record fest for world EV sales, with 3 record months in the last 4 setting new sales records. December was one of them, with over 900,000 registrations.

With plugin registrations jumping in 2021 an impressive 108% compared to the previous year, that was highest yearly growth rate since 2012, when the market celebrated a 144% growth rate — from the 50,000 units of 2011 to an amazing (at the time) 123,000 units.

Full electric vehicles (BEVs) ended the year growing significantly faster than PHEVs — +69% year over year (YoY) versus +31% YoY. That allowed them to end the year with 71% of plugin EV sales, up 2 percentage points from the 69% of 2020, but still below the 74% of 2019. Interestingly, the EV sales breakdown between both powertrains has been balancing between 69% and 74% since 2018, giving credit to those who say that PHEVs will still be around for a while.

But the same can’t be said about plugless hybrids, with the December result (650,000 registrations) representing just a 9% increase over the same month last year. With the remaining months of the last quarter of 2021 telling a similar story, we could be close to the point where plugless hybrids will start the descent curve of demand.

After the automotive market hit peak ICEVs (internal combustion engine vehicles) a couple of years ago, will 2022 signal the peak HEV moment?

With the overall automotive market in the red, added to the amazing growth of plugins in 2021, the December PEV share jumped to a record 15% share (11% BEV), pulling the final 2021 plugin share to 9% (6.1% BEV), a significant departure from the 4% of 2020. With 2021 going better than anticipated, I was expecting the year to end at 6–7% share. The global market is certainly now on the verge of reaching … The Disruption Zone.

With two-digit scores already happening coming the end of 2021, expect them to become common throughout 2022, and that’s when things get interesting (don’t forget to bring the popcorn), because once the plugin market starts to merge with the overall market, strange things start to happen. We already mentioned the possibility that 2022 could be the beginning of the end for plugless hybrids, but more fun stuff will happen in the mainstream market. In markets that are already in the Disruption Zone, we have seen Volkswagen Group losing its grip on the European market, the same thing happening in France with Renault, and the rise and rise of domestic OEMs in the Chinese market.

What unthinkable trends will pop up in the global market due to plugins? Please make your bets.

The high-tide-mode Tesla Model 3 won another monthly best seller title, with over 86,000 deliveries, a new all-time record. Interestingly, though, if we look at the quarterly average, because that’s the proper way to look at Tesla performances, the Model 3 ends up being below the Model Y (52,000 units for the Model Y vs. 47,000 for the Model 3). So, in reality, the Model 3 could be winning its last monthly best seller titles, as the Model Y has greater potential to grow in 2022.

The disruptive Wuling Mini EV also scored another record, with 55,742 registrations last month, although with the tiny EV already hitting podium positions in its domestic mainstream market, SAIC’s sales champ might be reaching its demand limits at home. Maybe it’s time to start exporting it?

Off the podium, we have the #4 VW ID.4, which thanks to the ramp-up of its Chinese operations has reached a record 19,174 registrations. The German crossover ended ahead of BYD’s top two star players, the #5 BYD Qin Plus PHEV and #6 BYD Song PHEV. If we were to add the BEV versions to their tallies, the midsize sedan would have some 24,300 registrations while the SUV would clock some 19,200 registrations. It’s not yet enough to beat Tesla globally, but it does allows them to play in the B League, along with the VW ID.4. Maybe it’s time for BYD to start exporting them?…

In 7th, a mention goes out to the Li Xiang One yacht full size SUV, which continues to amaze, getting another record month. With over 14,000 deliveries, it beat the BYD Han EV (a record 10,307 registrations) for the leadership position in the full size category. Not even the inclusion of the Han PHEV version (3,400 registrations) in the tally can help the big BYD to beat the startup model.

The #9 Great Wall Ora Good Cat (a record 10,685 registrations) won the C-segment/compact category in December, an important feat for the striking model. That is said to be Great Wall’s big bet in export markets this year, while the #8 Renault Zoe won the category below.

The #12 BYD Dolphin continues to rise in the charts, thanks to BYD’s ongoing production ramp-up. The compact BYD actually scored its first five-digit performance last month. Expect it to continue climbing that table during 2022, especially once exports start to kick in. It could even beat its Qin and Song siblings in the second half of the year.

In the second half of the table, we have a few surprises. Chery’s own Wuling Mini EV, the QQ Ice Cream, is already showing up on the table, after just a few months on the market, ending December in #18 with an impressive 8,390 units. How high can it go? (If the Wuling is any indication….)

The same question could be made about another new model on the table. The Dacia Spring showed up in #19 with 8,150 registrations, with the Sino-Romanian hoping to be the same disruptive force in Europe that the Wuling Mini EV is in China. No one really knows how high the little EV can go, but one thing is certain — former Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn must be proud that his little pet project is now one of the most important bets from the Renault–Nissan Alliance in the EV arena.

Speaking of Renault–Nissan, we should mention a new bet from the OEM showing up in #13, with a so called Nissan Leaf scoring an impressive 9,527 units….

Interestingly, out of the 20 models present here, 18 are being made in China, 13 belong to Chinese OEMs, and 6 come from BYD. The only two models in the table without Made in China labels are the #8 Renault Zoe and #13 Nissan Leaf. These stats speak volumes to the importance of China in the EV industry.

Outside the top 20, there is also a lot to talk about. Going by size category, the little VW e-Up scored a record 7,782 registrations, the hot hatch Mini Cooper EV had a record 5,630 registrations, GAC’s Aion Y (6,020 registrations) is proving there is still hope for compact MPVs, and the Audi Q4 e-tron (5,092 registrations) continues to ramp up production. With rumors saying that the Brussels plant, where the Audi e-tron is made, will also start making the Q4, expect Audi’s compact crossover to continue expanding sales throughout 2022.

After years of being limited to the Tesla Model 3, the midsize category is now experiencing true inflation of models, with several models ramping up deliveries. There’s the sensible BMW iX3 (7,338 registrations), passing by the flashy Ford Mustang Mach-E (6,488 registrations), the tech-friendly XPeng P5 (5,037), the minimalistic cool Polestar 2 (5,334), and let’s not forget the Korean cousins Hyundai Ioniq 5 (7,294 registrations) and Kia EV6 (5,072 registrations). Added to the Tesla Model 3 & Y, there is now a little for everyone in the midsize category. So, it is becoming harder by the day to justify anything but a BEV in the midsize category.

Finally, in the upper category, the Porsche Taycan scored a record 4,721 registrations, no doubt thanks partly to the CrossTurismo body. That underlined a great month for the German automaker, which also saw the Porsche Cayenne PHEV score a record 4,955 registrations in December.

In the final 2021 table, the Tesla Model 3 won its 4th consecutive Best Seller award, thanks to over half a million deliveries. It was a safe distance above the #2 Wuling Mini EV, and this result meant that it equaled the number of titles the Nissan Leaf has won (2011, 2013, 2014, and 2016).

It could also be its last Best Seller title. Not only has its market share been eroding (7% in 2018; 14% in 2019; 12% in 2018; and 8% now), but the #3 Tesla Model Y recently started to beat it regularly. The crossover still has a significant margin to grow, with big growth potential in markets like Europe and Australia, as well as the USA — let’s not forget that the SR version isn’t yet available. The Model 3 could have already reached its peak years. For reference, the best sales year for the BMW 3 Series was 2007, with 555,000 units, and the Toyota Camry sales record isn’t that much higher than that. It seems likely that 2022 will bring a new Best Seller, in the shape of the Tesla Model Y.

So, the medals went to Tesla (gold for the Model 3 and bronze for the Model Y) and SAIC (the Wuling Mini EV got the silver medal just like it did last year). Below that, the VW ID.4 took the 4th position, ahead of the BYD Qin Plus PHEV in 5th. Though, if we were to add the BEV version to the Qin tally, the midsizer would end up ahead of the German crossover, with 168,000 registrations.

The same can be said about the #6 Li Xiang One and its followers, the #7 BYD Han EV and #8 BYD Song PHEV. If these two BYD models had had both powertrains counted together, they would have ended up ahead of the startup model. But we currently are not counting them together, so congrats to Li Auto for winning the full size category prize — with over 90,000 deliveries in one year and 124,000 deliveries since it launched in January 2020. Now, that’s a meteoric rise … with only one model available.

In the second half of the table, a reference goes out to the Renault Zoe’s rise to #11 and the Nissan Leaf’s rise to #15, but these positions are still bad compared to where these models were a year ago (in 2020, the Renault Zoe was 3rd and the Nissan Leaf was 7th).

In the PHEV category, the 2021 Best Seller trophy went to the BYD Qin Plus PHEV. It beat last year’s winner, the VW Passat PHEV, to recover the title it last held in 2018.

Finally, outside the top 20, one should mention two models that ended fewer than 1,000 units behind the #20 SAIC Clever EV. The #21 BYD Yuan EV crossover was close to becoming the 4th BYD in the table, while the #22 Ford Mustang Mach-E is showing that Ford is taking the right steps to remain relevant in the EV market.

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Written By

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.


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