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January German Plugin EV Share 22% — Fiat 500 In Top Spot

Germany, Europe’s largest auto market, and the world’s 2nd largest plugin market after China, saw plugin electric vehicle share of 21.6% in January, almost flat year-on-year. Full electric vehicle sales grew a relative 28% year-on-year, plugin hybrids shrank slightly, and the overall auto market grew to 184,112 units. January plugin registrations saw a hangover after December’s end-of-year emissions compliance push.

January’s combined plugin result of 21.6% comprised 11.3% full battery electrics (BEVs) and 10.3% plugin hybrids. (PHEVs). This represents a temporary reduction in weighting of BEVs compared to recent months.

The trailing quarter share for plugins stands at 31.0% up from 23.25% at this point 12 months ago.

January’s plugin result saw the same pattern as we saw at the turn of the previous year. Like in 2020–2021, December 2021 again brought a rush of auto maker self registrations to comply with emissions targets and avoid fines.

These already-registered vehicles then get sold on to customers in January (and some in February), but don’t count as new registrations. The supply of these vehicles reduces the demand for all-new registrations in January as these “pre-registered” vehicles are offered instead.

Conversely, there’s also motivation for auto makers who are close to their emission limits, to hold back sales of highly emitting petrol-only and diesel-only powertrains in December. These vehicles then experience a rebound in January. This was a smaller effect, mainly applying to Diesels, but added to the downward pressure on plugin share.

These combined hangover effects obviously reduce the number of new EV registrations in January (and to some extent in February), and boost combustion numbers, and the powertrain shares we are seeing for January reflect all of this.

However, beyond these temporary push-and-pull effects, the underlying market currents are unchanged — German car buyers are strongly moving to EVs, and their share will continue to grow steadily in the months ahead.

Favoured BEVs in Germany

The medium-term most popular BEV in Germany remains the Tesla Model 3, though due to Tesla’s international logistics juggling, January saw only 277 new registrations (from over 6,000 in December).

Other recently popular BEVs were also far below their typical volumes in January — not due to logistics — but due to the emissions game discussed in the previous section. These include, most notably, the Renault Zoe and the Volkswagen e-Up!, both down to under 20% of their December unit volumes:

Other models suffering a dramatic volume cut (of around a thousand units or more) in January include many of the recent big names; the Dacia Spring, Renault Twingo, Skoda Enyaq, BMW i3, Nissan Leaf, Smart Fortwo. In fact, almost all BEV models saw volume fall significantly in January.

Only three models saw registration grow by over 10% month-on-month, all being lower volume, more newly available models; the Mercedes EQB, and the Volvo C40, and the Citroen C4.

Some other models managed to remain closer to parity with December’s volume, most notably Hyundai and Kia models, and a few of Mercedes’s lower-volume models. Many of the Stellantis BEV models also kept close to their recent volumes. Other than these, most models declined in volume significantly, presumably due to brands playing the emissions game, as discussed above.

Here’s the trailing quarter list to compare and contrast with the above January list:

Outlook

Although January’s single-month plugin result was relatively lacklustre, due to the hangover from the emissions game moves in December, the months ahead will continue to see EV share growing strongly.

Note what we saw above — the trailing quarter share for plugins stands at 31.0%, up from 23.25% at this point last year. So plugins are still trending strongly upwards if we step back and take the longer view.

With 12 month waiting lists now becoming common for many BEV models (other than Teslas) we will also see increasing numbers of new car buyers simply refuse to buy the outgoing combustion-only technology, even if they have to wait a long time for their preferred BEV. This will obviously accelerate the decline of combustion-only vehicles, beyond simple a one-to-one replacement.

We can therefore expect overall auto market volume in Germany to remain constrained as combustion vehicles face more downward pressure than growing plugin sales can easily compensate for.

Any manufacturer hoping to make the transition, but who hasn’t got their ducks lined up (especially battery supply), is going to face tough challenges ahead.

With these choppy waters, it’s hard to make a detailed forecast of what we might see this year. Having said that, with strongly growing consumer sentiment around plugin vehicles, I think it’s likely that monthly plugin share will climb into the mid-40% range by the final quarter of the year. Tesla’s European factory will come online in the coming months will exert even more pressure on legacy auto to get with the program.

What do you think? Are you on a waiting list for a new plugin vehicle? What’s the wait time like in your region? Please let us know in the comments.

 

 
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Max is an anthropologist, social theorist and international political economist, trying to ask questions and encourage critical thinking about social and environmental justice, sustainability and the human condition. 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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