22% Of New Car Sales In Europe Have A Plug!

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Despite declining growth in the rate of new car sales, the European passenger plugin vehicle market is still growing significantly (+10% in March), especially considering the overall new car sales market continues to fall off a cliff, down 19% year over year (YoY) last month (marking its 9th consecutive month on the red).

Approximately 250,000 plugin vehicles were registered in March, the second best month ever. That meant there were 565,000 units registered in the first quarter of the month, up 24% YoY.

Last month, growth came solely from BEVs (+47% YoY). BEVs keep gaining momentum, while PHEVs crashed significantly (-22%), placing the YTD plugin hybrid tally in the red (-7%). That allowed pure electrics to significantly increase their share of plugin vehicle registrations last month (62% vs. 38%), leading to a gain of 3 percentage points of market share in the YTD count (58% vs 42%).

With plugin registrations rising fast and the overall market shrinking significantly, plugin vehicle market share had to rise significantly, and it did. Last month’s plugin vehicle share of the overall European auto market was 22% (14% full electrics/BEVs). That result pulled the 2022 plugin vehicle (PEV) share to 21% (12% for BEVs alone).

Also worthy of notice is the fact that besides the EV disruption, the overall market is being heavily changed by other factors as well, like the chip shortage, which is tanking registrations from most OEMs.

But there are exceptions. Of the major players, plugin-friendly Kia (+22% YoY) is the big beneficiary of the current disruption. It ended March in 7th, above Ford and Renault, and if we look further down, one starts to see a trend among the remaining fast growers: 100% BEV Tesla (+73%) jumped to #19 in March, only 6,000 units behind Volvo, 100% plugin(ish) MG (+60%) ended in #25, above Land Rover(!), while the heavily electrified DS (+22%) showed up in #29, above Lexus.

Basically, the recipe for new car sales survival in these disruptive times is to electrify the lineup, and the faster you do it, the better.

Top 20 plugin vehicles in Europe in March 2022. Click to embiggen.

Anyway, let’s look closer at March’s plugin top 5:

#1 Tesla Model 3 — It was another great month for the Tesla sedan, which had 23,198 registrations. But it seems the sedan’s deliveries are flattening. The Q1 monthly sales average, 10,967 units, is only a 6% improvement compared to the same period of 2021. Will 2022 be peak Model 3 in Europe? I think it is still too early to tell, but sedans are not really as popular here as station wagons or the now more fashionable crossover body (which are really station wagons on stilts…). So, with the Tesla Model Y now available, expect most Tesla prospective buyers to prefer the Y instead of the 3. Regarding March’s performance, Model 3 deliveries were concentrated on the continent’s larger markets, like Germany (5,516 units), France (3,882 units), and the UK (6,457 units), with Norway (1,696 units) following them.

#2 Tesla Model Y — Tesla’s crossover had a record month, with 19,500 registrations, a number that will easily be surpassed when Giga Berlin ramps up and the midsize crossover exceeds its sedan sibling in sales. Will it win a monthly Best Seller award in the overall market this year? We’ll see. Regarding last month’s performance, the Model Y’s main markets were Germany (2,529 units), the UK (6,464), Norway (3,305), and station wagon crossover-loving Sweden (1,363).

#3 Fiat 500e — The little Italian is having a strong start of the year, winning another bronze medal, this time with a record 6,554 deliveries in March. With wrinkles showing up on the competition (VW e-Up, Smart Fortwo EV, Renault Twingo EV) and the Dacia Spring appealing to a more cost-sensitive customer base, the little Fiat EV won’t have serious competition for the near future. That makes it the default EV choice in the city car category. Last month, the main markets were Germany (1,991 units), France (1,562 units), and the UK (1,100), while the Fiat EV had a meh month in its native Italy (498 units).

#4 Kia Niro EV — The Korean tall wagon crossover continues to be a sure value in the EV arena. It doesn’t really stand out on any item in particular, but it also doesn’t have weak points, which contributes to its continued success, even when the successor is on its way. In March, it had 5,319 registrations, making it Hyundai–Kia’s best selling model last month. Regarding last month’s performance, the Niro EV’s main market was the UK (1,900 units), followed by France (584 units), with Germany (533) and Spain (316 units) being the crossover’s next best markets.

#5 Volkswagen ID.4 — After an (un)expected absence, the German crossover reappeared in the top 5 in March, with 5,070 registrations. Will the Volkswagen crossover remain among the best sellers during the next few months? It’s still too early to tell. With production constraints left and right (chip shortages, Ukraine supplier disruption, battery supply constraints …), the next few months will be challenging for the German model. Back to March’s performances, the Volkswagen star player in the EV field had its best score in Norway (1,111 units), but it is also finding its corner of the market in the increasingly important German market (973 units), followed by Sweden (906) and the UK (900).

Looking at the rest of the March table, the #9 Hyundai Kona EV had its best score in a year, with 4,204 sales, but that wasn’t enough to beat the Renault Zoe and Peugeot 208 EV in the B-segment (subcompact category) race in March.

In the PHEV field, the Ford Kuga PHEV won the title last month, with 4,938 registrations. It is still trying to dethrone the Peugeot 3008 PHEV from the top of the category in the YTD chart.

In the second half of the table, there were three record performances. SAIC’s MG eHS crossover scored a best ever 3,285 deliveries, allowing it a rare top 20 presence. Another Made in China nameplate, the #19 Polestar 2, also had a record month, with 3,139 registrations. In fact, out of the five Made in China models here (Tesla Model 3 & Y, Dacia Spring, MG eHS, and Polestar 2), three of them hit record new car sales numbers, which says a lot about what is going on right now.

The 5th record score in the table is a real surprise, with the #14 BMW i3 having its best month of car sales ever (!). The i3’s record 3,788 registrations are an amazing feat for a 9-year-old model, especially considering that BMW management recently decided to retire it (insert shooting themselves in the foot comment). Besides proving its avant-garde design has aged well, making it a future classic, another surprising feat made by the little veteran beemer is that it was not only the best selling BMW in the table, but the only one to reach the top 20.

Speaking of BMW, below the top 20 new car sales leaders, we have the two most recent Bavarian models ramping up new car sales numbers. The BMW iX reached a record 2,088 registrations and the BMW i4 reached a record 1,710 registrations. However, the i4 has a much harder task ahead of it in the midsize category — both Teslas are in a different league, but even the best non-Tesla midsizer prize will be hard to get, because ahead of the BMW sport sedan there 4 tough cookies for it to beat, — the Ford Mustang Mach-E (2,403 registrations), Polestar 2 (3,139 registrations), Kia EV6 (3,116 registrations), and Hyundai Ioniq 5 (3,355 registrations), all competing for the bronze medal in the midsize category.

Interestingly, none of them come from the German 3 Marys (BMW, Mercedes, Audi) that held a firm grip on the European midsize category for years (decades?). With the Mercedes EQC (1,705 units) and BMW iX3 (1,807 units) far from impressing, and Audi still out of the race for another year, the i4 has difficult work cut out for it.

Elsewhere, a few more models deserve a mention. The Volvo XC40 EV had a record month of new car sales, with 2,424 registrations, mostly thanks to its new, cheaper versions, while the Skoda Enyaq (3,086 registrations) and Mini Cooper EV (3,012 registrations) were close to joining the top 20.

bar graph of new electric car sales
Top 20 plugin vehicles in Europe in January–March 2022. Click to embiggen.

Looking at the 2022 ranking, Tesla had a double win at the top of the podium, with the US automaker replicating the March standing of the Model 3 and Y in the YTD table, thanks to the crossover jumping three spots, to the runner-up spot.

With both models already having a sizable distance over the #3 Fiat 500e, both top positions are already decided, with the only question being their order. Will the crossover surpass the sedan in the remainder of the year?

After a very slow start, the VW ID.4 is now in recovery mode, with the crossover jumping seven spots, to 5th, contributing to a 100% BEV top 5.

As for PHEVs, the category title is for now in the hands of the #6 Peugeot 3008 PHEV, but the 2021 winner, the Ford Kuga PHEV, is closing in. Ford’s crossover is currently in #10 (up four positions), so there could be an interesting race to follow here.

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Elsewhere, there were several position changes in the second half of the table, with the main news being the BMW i3 showing up in the table in #20 while the Dacia Spring and Peugeot e-208 jumped to #14 and #15, respectively.

Also worthy of reference is the VW ID.3 climbing one position, to #17, which is a far cry from the #4 position it had a year ago.

But the German hatchback is not alone here, as other smaller EVs have seen significant tumbles in the table, like the Renault Zoe dropping to 9th from 3rd a year ago, and the Peugeot e-208 dropping from 7th in March 2021 to 15th last month, highlighting the loss of significance of cheaper models in the table, but more on this later.

total electric car sales

One positive trend is that plugin hybrids are losing representatives. In February, there were 6 PHEVs in the table; now, there are 5; and if we look back a year, we had 10 plugin hybrids then. Maybe in April we will have only four? The #19 Mercedes GLC’s presence is starting to look shaky….

In the automaker ranking, we have a surprise — Tesla (10.5%) jumped out of nowhere into the leadership position, displacing BMW (9.1%) from the top spot, while Mercedes (8.9%) was down to the last place on the podium.

In 4th we have Volvo (6.1%, down 0.3 percentage points), while Kia (6.0%, down 0.3 percentage points) kept its place in 5th at the expense of Peugeot (5.7%). Peugeot had a horrible month, losing 0.7% share and falling from 4th to 8th in just one month. It is now behind Volkswagen and Audi, both with 5.9%.

Arranging things by automotive group, Volkswagen Group is ahead with 17.5% share, down 1.2 points. Stellantis is in second (14.7%, down 1.2 points). The runner-up multinational conglomerate kept a solid distance between itself and the current bronze medalist, Hyundai–Kia (11.3%, down 1.0 point).

Meanwhile, #4 BMW Group (11.1%, down 0.8), recovered some ground over the Korean group and is now in position to pressure the duo. Will we see a position change here in April?

In 5th, we now have Tesla, which surpassed the Mercedes-Benz Group (10.2%, down 0.6).

Which are the best sellers in the main European markets?

Answering a reader question a few months ago, I mentioned that the different fiscal incentives and consumer tastes make European markets differ significantly between each other, so now I will mention the best sellers in the top 18 markets in Europe, in order to have a better understanding of each of them.

First of all, let’s mention the countries where the best seller is a PHEV.

Belgium and the Netherlands have the Belgian-made Volvo XC40 PHEV as their best seller, so some domestic preference might be in play here;

Finland and Poland also have a Volvo PHEV as preferred model, in this case the midsize XC60 PHEV. The Swede’s win in Finland is not really surprising. With such a harsh climate, PHEVs and SUVs would be always hot items there. It did surprise me that the XC60 won in Poland. Maybe the long distances make a PHEV an easier buy in Poland?

The best seller in Portugal is the BMW 3 Series PHEV. Considering the midsize BMW is a long-time darling of buyers there, and this being a rather conservative market to new brands, it is not really much of a surprise. In fact, it should be one of the few markets where the BMW i4 will easily beat the Model 3.

Denmark continued its strange infatuation with the Ford Kuga PHEV. If someone could explain this to me, it would be much appreciated. …

Finally, we have a surprise in Italy — instead of the expected Fiat 500e, the best selling plugin there is …

… the Jeep Compass PHEV. While at first it may sound surprising, we should realize that when Fiat bought Chrysler Group, Jeep gained a sort of Golden Visa to new car sales in Italy, especially since the Compass and Renegade started to be made locally. So, it’s not entirely surprising that both the Jeep Compass PHEV and Renegade PHEV are best sellers in Italy.

Now, let’s just focus on the BEV best sellers. …

As expected, it is a Tesla-painted map. But there are differences — some prefer the Model 3 (Germany, France, Spain, Poland, Switzerland), while others prefer the Model Y (UK, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Austria, Portugal). Interestingly, among the Model 3 lovers, we have most of the larger countries on the continent, which might have to do with the fact that drivers in these countries drive more (longer distances). The importance of range might pull them to the more efficient, longer range Model 3.

As for the Model Y, it is not surprising that utility-loving Scandinavians, Austrians, and Portuguese prefer the Model Y, but the British preference for the crossover surprised me, especially because it landed so recently.

Outside Tesla, the Fiat 500e’s car sales win in Italy is not really surprising, just like the Dacia Spring win in Romania, as both profit from home advantage. However, it is interesting that once again the Belgians and Dutch share similar tastes when it comes to EVs, with the more utilitiarian Skoda Enyaq winning in the Netherlands while its more premium cousin Audi Q4 e-tron won south of the border, in Belgium.

The Koreans also have some wins, with the Hyundai Ioniq 5 winning in Ireland and the Kia EV6 in Hungary. The unassuming Kia Niro EV tall wagon surprisingly won in Sweden, beating both Tesla and local heroes Volvo and Polestar! Maybe it’s Jantelagen doing its thing?


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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