Tesla #1 In World EV Sales In 2021

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Tesla wins its 4th title as top selling EV manufacturer.

Tesla Supercharger in Florida, by Zach Shahan/CleanTechnica.

Top Auto Brands in EV Sales

High-tide mode Tesla managed to win another monthly Best Seller title in December, and with a record to boot (170,000 registrations). Tesla crossed the 100,000 registrations/month average for a quarter for the first time. BYD ended not far from that average, having gotten a record 93,293 registrations in December. So, should the Chinese automaker continue to grow fast this year, it could actually give Tesla a run for its money in 2022.

The SGMW* joint venture ended December in 3rd, with a record 61,306 registrations. A few positions below it, we have two surprising performances. In #8 we have Great Wall scoring an impressive 22,414 registrations thanks to its pack of cats, in particular the Good Cat. In #9 we have Chery, which seemingly came out of nowhere to reach the top half of the table, with the QQ Ice Cream proving to be quite a tasty addition to its lineup. Will we see Chery become a major player in 2022, thanks to lots of Ice Cream?

In the bottom half of the table, a reference also goes out to Dongfeng, which scored a record 17,251 registrations. Additionally, Li Auto, despite relying on only one model, managed to reach the automaker top 20 table in December, thanks to the One’s 14,087 deliveries.

Outside the top 20, #21 Ford ended fewer than 500 units from the table, while Geely seems to have finally gotten its act together and scored a record result, with 11,348 registrations. Expect Geely, which is the biggest Chinese automaker in the overall market, to finally start showing up in the best seller tables in 2022. A final mention goes out to Porsche, which scored 10,631 units last month, meaning that approximately one third of all Porsches delivered in December had a plug. Not bad, eh?

After a walk in the park in 2019 and 2020, Tesla had another comfortable win in 2021, winning its 4th consecutive Best Seller title. However, with its market share eroding (12% in 2018, 17% in 2019, 16% in 2020, and 14% in 2021), it could be the case that someone could challenge Tesla in 2022, and that would most likely be #2 BYD. If the Chinese automaker continues to grow in 2022 as feverishly as in 2021, when it tripled deliveries, there could be an interesting race between these two. True, BYD’s growth in its domestic market shouldn’t be as big as it was last year, but on the other hand, BYD is said to be betting heavily on overseas markets in 2022, so that could be the path to accelerated growth.

The SGMW joint venture had its first podium position in 2021, earning bronze, while Volkswagen went from runner-up in 2020 to being kicked off the podium in the following year.

BMW and Mercedes repeated their 2020 positions in 2021, while SAIC jumped from #10 in 2020 to its current #7 spot.

There was no other major news in the first half of the table, but in the second half there were a few surprises. Great Wall was up to #12 in December, a four-position improvement over 2020, while another solid Chinese EV producer, GAC, also took the last stage of the race to climb positions, in its case to #14.

Chery returned to the table in #18, while XPeng was up one spot to #19, ending the year as the Best Selling Chinese EV Startup.

Finally, outside the top 20, we should mention Dongfeng, which ended some 4,000 units below #20 Changan. It will certainly try to return to the best sellers table. Its last presence on the table was in 2018, having been #18 at the time.

*SGMW: SAIC + GM + Wuling, a joint-venture between Wuling, General Motors, and Shanghai Auto, with the last one owning 50.1% of the joint venture. The American automaker has a 44% share, while Wuling has 5.9% of the joint-venture.

Category Leaders

Here’s a look at the 2021 segment winners:

A-segment/City Cars — This is all about Chinese EVs: The Wuling Mini EV was miles ahead of the competition, followed by the Changan Benni EV and Chery eQ. Which says a lot about who will be in the pole position when (and if) autonomous pods become a thing. In 2022, we should see the Chery QQ Ice Cream rise onto the podium, while the only non-Chinese EV with any fighting chance to race with the best will be the Dacia Spring.

B-segment/Subcompacts — The leader was the Renault Zoe (74,000 units), followed by the Hyundai Kona EV at some distance, while in 3rd we had Hozon’s Neta V. With 49,000 deliveries for the latter, it is looking to gain scale and join the best sellers table soon. But the 2022 winner seems to be already chosen — the BYD Dolphin should take the title without a sweat.

C-segment/Compacts — This is Volkswagen’s turf, with Volkswagens in the top two positions. The ID.4 was on top, followed by the smaller ID.3. The Nissan Leaf took the category’s bronze medal.

D-segment/Midsize — This is Tesla’s turf. The Model 3 was on top, followed by the Model Y. Chasing these two, we had the BYD Qin Plus (168,000 units) in third.

E/F-segments/Full Size — Three Chinese models were on top here, with the BYD Han (117,000 units), Li Xiang One (90,000), and XPeng P7 (61,000) winning. If someone is looking for a podium spot in 2022, they’d better have production capabilities for at least 100,000 units/year, because that should be the bare minimum to get there.

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Automotive Group Leaders in EV Sales

If we gather plugin sales by automotive group, Tesla still ended the year in #1, with 14% share. That was 1 percentage point less than in Q3 2021, and 2 points less than a year ago, which nevertheless is no small feat when you consider the intensive diversification the plugin market is going through.

Volkswagen Group remained in 2nd, keeping the same market share as in Q3 and losing 1 point compared to 2020. On the other hand, while SAIC stayed in 3rd, repeating its 2020 bronze medal result, the Shanghai automaker saw its share increase by 2 percentage points compared to the previous year, mostly thanks to the Wuling Mini EV.

Will Volkswagen Group or SAIC beat Tesla in 2022? I think SAIC doesn’t have enough firepower to do it, and while Volkswagen does have what it takes, its slow production ramp-up should prevent it from surpassing Tesla in 2022. Although, it could rise slightly closer to the US automaker by year end.

The same can’t be said about BYD, which ended the year in 4th, with 9% share, 1 percentage point more than what it had in Q3 2021. The Chinese automaker had an amazing second half of 2021. It had an incredible score of 443,000 units, not that far off from the 550,000 unit performance that Tesla had in the same period. So, if BYD can keep the same exponential pace of growth during 2022, then it could become a sort of dark horse and get in the way of the Tesla vs. Volkswagen duel.

Regardless of what will happen in 2022, the big gainers in 2021 were BYD and SAIC.

In the B-League, Stellantis is sprinting ahead, while Renault-Nissan, 4th in 2020, and BMW Group, 5th in that same year, were kicked out of the top 20. Despite this, Stellantis has its #5 spot in danger, because Geely–Volvo has been closing in, ending in 5th in December. It will be a strong competitor for the 5th spot in 2022.

Looking only at BEVs, Tesla again got the title, with 21% share, 1 point less than it had in Q3 2021 and 2 points less than at the end of 2020. That is still a notable feat considering the current diversification process.

The silver medal went once again to SAIC, which had 13% share. It lost 1 percentage point compared to Q3 2021, but won 2 points compared to the 2020 result, when it had 11% share.

Volkswagen Group got the bronze medal it also won in 2020, with 10% share, 1 point less than in 2020.

Off the podium, BYD ended in 4th, up one spot compared to 2020. It gained 1 percentage point, from 6% in 2020 to its current 7%. In 5th, we have Hyundai–Kia, with 5% share.

Compared to the BEV+PHEV table, the big difference is Stellantis, which got replaced in the BEV table by Hyundai–Kia.

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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 473 posts and counting. See all posts by José Pontes