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France Plugin EV Share Hits 21.4% As Diesels Reach Record Low

France, Europe’s second largest auto market, saw plugin electric vehicles take 21.4% market share in March 2022, up from 16.1% year on year. Full electrics took 13.5%, their 2nd highest result (following December 2021). Overall auto market volume was down by some 35% compared to pre-pandemic March 2019, at 147,077 units.

March’s combined plugin result of 21.4% comprised 13.5% full battery electrics (BEVs) and 7.9% plugin hybrids (PHEVs). This continues a recent re-weighting towards BEVs. BEVs’ share of 13.5% represents a growth of a relative 59% compared to March 2021 (8.5% BEV). PHEVs only improved by a relative 4% (0.3% absolute growth in share) over the same period.

Diesel share was the lowest of the modern era, with just 14.3% (down from 23.3% YoY). Sometime between now and June, we will see BEVs overtake diesel, and then increase the gap. Petrol held up better, at 39.1% from 42.6% YoY. However, once diesels have faded, petrol will be first in line to take bigger losses.

France’s Favourite BEVs

March saw Tesla make its usual end of quarter shipping push, with the Tesla Model 3 taking top spot at 3,882 units. The diminutive Dacia Spring took second place (2,111), and the Peugeot e-208 came in third (1,842).

There were no other great surprises in the top 10, except that the Citroen E-C4 joined the chart for the first time. The E-C4 increased its March volume considerably, with 540 units, compared to its previous peak of 349 units (back in November) and its recent monthly averages of around 280 units. Let’s see if the E-C4 can appear regularly in the top 10 from now on.

 

Looking next at the trailing 3 month totals, the top three positions are the same as the monthly result, with the Tesla Model 3 again leading.

I don’t yet have clear March data for the Peugeot e-2008, so there’s a slight uncertainty whether it may have just missed out on the top 10 spots over the trailing 3 months, or may in fact have challenged its close rivals, the Hyundai Kona, and Kia Niro.

Above this pack, the Tesla Model Y was solid in 7th place.

Once plentiful European-made supply comes available (between now and the end of the year), will the Tesla Model Y increase in sales volume enough to challenge for the top 6? Positions 3 to 6 are small and affordable vehicles, long the most popular category in the French auto market.

The Model 3 starts from €50,000, whereas the Model Y (currently only available in long range variants) starts from €63,000, a big step up. I would expect that the Model Y may have to be offered in the entry variant before it can climb into the middle of the chart (or higher).

Meanwhile, the Dacia Spring (amongst others), with long waiting lists, could be selling in even higher volumes if the production volume was increased. For this and the other affordable BEV brands, it is evidently the production volume that is the limiting factor, not the demand.

Outlook

As I discussed in my recent Sweden report, industrial manufacturing in Europe faces many disruptions, both in supply chains, and in energy prices, and in general inflation, as well as in consumer spending power.  It remains to be seen how much the French auto manufacturers, so dominant in the French BEV market, will be affected by these forces. It’s also an unknown whether plugin vehicles will be impacted to a different degree, compared to other powertrains.

On the demand side, with increased fuel costs, there will certainly by higher relative demand for BEVs and PHEVs than ever before, and less for combustion-only vehicles.

Assuming the impact of disruptions falls fairly evenly on the production of all autos, we can assume plugin share of the new car market will increase strongly in the months ahead due to increased demand, even if actual volumes do not increase particularly steeply. Combustion-only volumes will continue to fall.

It’s too early to be able to put precise figures on it, but I would expect combined plugins to exceed 30% market share in December, perhaps by a large margin.

How do you see the French auto market in 2022? Please join in the discussion below.

 
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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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