January Sees France’s Plugin EVs Grow Share By 50%

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France, Europe’s second largest auto market, saw January plugin electric vehicle share at 17.6%, up from 11.6% year-on-year.  Full electrics alone doubled their share of the market to almost 10%. Overall auto market volume was down to 102,899 units, some 33% down from pre-pandemic seasonal norms. The Dacia Spring was the best selling plugin.

January’s combined plugin result of 17.6% comprised 9.9% full battery electrics (BEVs) and 7.7% plugin hybrids (PHEVs). BEVs almost doubled their share (from 5.1% YoY), but PHEVs barely grew share (from 6.5% YoY), and their volume actually shrank slightly.

On the other side, combustion-only powertrains continued to fall dramatically in sales volume, by some 35% YoY. Plugless hybrids (HEVs) had a step up in share in January (and their YoY volume grew by about 12%). HEVs are of course a temporary, cheap, stop-gap strategy for manufacturers to reduce emissions.

Some car brands were offering sales and discounts in January, mostly of plugless powertrains. Contrasted with long waiting lists for most BEVs, these discounts may have helped give a temporary bolster to plugless sales (see trend line below), which will return to their longer-term track and trajectory in the next couple of months:

France’s Favoured BEVs

January saw last year’s best selling BEV, the Tesla Model 3, predictably absent due to international logistics, but regulars the Renault Zoe and Dacia Spring were in good form:

Notice that all the BEVs in the top 5 have starting prices well below €30,000 after incentives, and a couple end up well below €20,000. The most affordable is the Dacia Spring which — no surprise — is the most popular also.

Let’s take a step back from the monthly result to look at the trailing quarter:

Again we see that the Dacia Spring has the lead in France, with the Renault Zoe right behind. Unless parent company Renault Group has some kind of production or supply crisis in the coming months, I can’t see this ranking change in favour of more expensive BEVs anytime soon. Many car buyers want relatively simple and affordable BEVs, and the Dacia Spring is the current epitome of this.

In fact, apart from the Tesla Model 3, all of the above top 10 are amongst the more affordable BEVs currently available. This suggests that France’s typical car owners — not just those with deeper pockets and premium preferences — are keen to get on board with the electric revolution.


France’s plugin market share trajectory has always been somewhat seasonal, with January typically seeing a significant step down from the previous December peak. This year actually saw relatively less of a step down (24.3% to 17.6%) than that which happened a year ago (19.2% to 11.6%).

It’s also good to see BEVs almost doubling their share year-on-year, from 5.1% to 9.9%. It would be good to see PHEVs doing better. France is still fairly early in the transition, and combustion-only powertrains still have a pretty sizable chunk of the market.

Most PHEVs tend to be only available in more expensive vehicles than either BEVs or plugless hybrids, due to the complexity of having two parallel powertrains. We know that France’s auto market has a clear preference for affordable vehicles, so perhaps PHEVs are not a great fit to get to high volumes.

If this is the case, then France’s further growth for plugins will lean heavily on the increasing availability of high volume, affordable BEVs.

Could the success of the Dacia Spring provoke Stellantis to step up and offer a segment competitor? We’ve seen talk of a Fiat Panda BEV being considered. Meanwhile BYD and other up-and-coming manufacturers will also be happy to offer French car buyers options in the affordable BEV market, like the Dolphin.

2022 should see plugin share reach 30% by August or September, and deep into the 30s by December’s peak. The demand is there — much will depend on supply availability. What do you think 2022 has in store for France’s auto market? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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Dr. Maximilian Holland

Max is an anthropologist, social theorist and international political economist, trying to ask questions and encourage critical thinking. He has lived and worked in Europe and Asia, and is currently based in Barcelona. Find Max's book on social theory, follow Max on twitter @Dr_Maximilian and at MaximilianHolland.com, or contact him via LinkedIn.

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