Global plugin vehicle registrations were up 55% in May 2022 compared to May 2021. With the China covid lockdown effects easing, sales have recovered most of their previous pace, reaching 699,000 registrations last month. That represents 12% share of the overall auto market (8.6% BEV share). Considering the steep drops in the overall market, and that plugless hybrids (HEVs) were down for the second month in a row, that should be considered an amazing result. Peak HEVs may be upon us in 2022, with 2023 being the start of downhill sales for this kind of powertrain. We’ll see.
In May, BEVs (+65% YoY) grew faster than PHEVs (+37%), with the latter powertrain suffering from sales drops in Europe. Year to date, the plugin share remained stable at 11% (8.1% BEV). All of which is great, but the internet loves lists, so here you go. The top 20 electric car sales leaders!
#1 for Wuling Mini EV
Looking at the monthly best seller table, the fashionable little Wuling Mini EV won another monthly title, its second this year, thanks to some 34,000 units of the electric car finding homes, followed by the BYD Song (BEV+PHEV). Thanks to a record 31,989 registrations, the midsize SUV managed to surpass the Tesla Model Y, which ended the month in 3rd, harmed by the closure of Tesla’s Shanghai production unit.
Will we see BYD’s SUV win the #1 spot soon?
Just off the podium, we have another surprise, with the BYD Han (BEV+PHEV) in 4th thanks to a record 23,978 units. That allowed the flagship BYD to beat the #5 Tesla Model 3 and #6 BYD Qin Plus (BEV+PHEV).
The BYD Yuan Plus ended the month in 7th, thanks to a record 11,550 registrations. Added in the #13 BYD Tang, there were 5 BYDs in the global top 20!
There were other record performers in the table. The #10 GAC Aion S scored a record 10,504 registrations, highlighting a positive month for the Chinese automaker, which also placed the Aion Y in #15.
The #18 Ford Mustang Mach E is also ramping up deliveries, scoring 7,860 registrations, its second record score in a row, while the Fiat 500e was just 32 units behind its own record score, set last March.
The Korean models were the best selling EVs from a legacy OEM, proving that Hyundai–Kia have won the bet with these two models. That raises the question: With the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and its cousin Kia EV6 not being sold in China, what is Hyundai–Kia waiting for to launch them there?!? I mean, it’s just the biggest EV market in the world….
The second half of the table saw two more record scores. The little Leap Motor T03 had a record 7,156 registrations, with the promising startup EV ending the month in #13. It got the runner-up position in the city car category, behind the all-mighty Wuling Mini EV and slightly ahead of the #14 Chery QQ Ice Cream. The other record score went to the surprising Ford Mustang Mach-E. Thanks to the start of its Chinese operations and greater availability in the Mexican plant, the electric crosser had a best ever score of 6,898 units, allowing it to jump into the top 20 in #15.
And it wasn’t just the Ford EV benefiting from a slower month from Chinese OEMs to get a presence in the table. In #20, we have the little Fiat 500e showing up among the best sellers for the first time, with 5,615 registrations.
The #9 VW ID.4 benefitted from the ease of production constraints in Germany and China to return to its usual 5-digit performances, allowing it to once again become the best selling EV from a legacy OEM. It left the Koreans, the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6, significantly behind in #16 and #19, respectively.
Outside the top 20, there was plenty to talk about, from record scores like the Peugeot e-208’s 4,697 registrations, to year-best performances like the Audi e-tron 4,927 registrations (which is still less than half of the Li Xiang One score). There was also SAIC’s Clever EV getting 6,263 registrations and the MG eHS PHEV getting 5,581 registrations, mostly thanks to Europe, but also with the help from the hundreds sold in Israel and Thailand. JAC’s Sehol E10X did well as well, with 5,022 registrations, in part thanks to the couple of hundred units made in Mexico.
Speaking of production ramp-ups of recently introduced models, the highlights are the new BYD Destroyer o5 midsize sedan (4,558 units) and Geely’s Zeekr 001 full size fastback (4,330 units). In the niche of small and specific sporty midsize SUVs from a Chinese startup, we have not one but two models deserving praise: the Leap Motors C11 had a record 4,345 registrations, while the Huawei-supported AITO M5 EREV hit 5,033 registrations.
In the year-to-date (YTD) table, the top positions remained stable, with the first change happening only in #9 — the Li Xiang One jumping three spots and joining the top 10. The startup model is now trying to reach the #7 BYD Tang in the race for best selling full size SUV.
In the lower half of the table, the BYD Yuan Plus also jumped three spots, to #14, with the compact BYD now looking to displace the VW ID.4 from the leadership position in the compact category.
Finally, we have the GAC Aion S returning to the table, in #20, thanks to a record May. That makes two GACs in the table, just one of four brands to achieve such a feat (BYD, Tesla, Chery, and GAC).
BYD in #1
In May, BYD’s current record streak continued, scoring close to 115,000 registrations and doubling the sales of Giga Shanghai starved Tesla in second. SGMW ended in 3rd.
Below the podium, there were a few surprises. SAIC had a record month, with over 28,000 registrations, and ended in 4th, followed in 5th by Volkswagen. After a horrible April, when it was only 9th, Volkswagen had a return to the good ol’ days last month, scoring close to 27,000 registrations. With the skies now clearer from dark clouds, will the German brand try to reach the bronze medal in the coming months?
Still in the top half of the table, GAC reached a record score, with 21,059 registrations, allowing it to reach #8 and ending ahead of the Koreans and Mercedes.
As for the second half of the table, the highlight is Ford, which achieved a record 13,476 sales, beating its previous record score set back in June 2021 (13,379 sales). With the ramp-up of its Chinese operations and strong output elsewhere, expect the Blue Oval to continue beating records over the rest of the year.
In the last position on the table, we have the Chinese EV startup Li Auto in #18, which profited from a return to normality in the top 20 on the back of its One model returning to form. It was followed by Great Wall (this time its best seller was the Black Cat — 5,340 units) in #19, and Hozon joined the table in #20 thanks to the continued success of the Neta V crossover.
In the YTD table, BYD cemented its top spot, gaining a 100,000 unit lead over Tesla. That should be enough for the Shenzhen automaker to resist Tesla’s end-of-quarter peak, opening prospects for the Chinese automaker to have a real shot at ending the year in the lead.
And even if BYD ends up losing to Tesla, it will be the first time since 2018 that anyone has been able to challenge Tesla’s domination in the market, which can only be described as a positive development towards a more mature market.
Below these two, which are really in a league of their own, the SGMW joint venture is comfortable in 3rd. Below it, BMW lost some advantage over 5th placed Volkswagen, and with production constraints expected to ease significantly on Volkswagen’s plants, the stage will be set for the Wolfsburg brand to go after BMW and steal the 4th spot from the Bavarian automaker.
SAIC was up to 7th, with the Shanghai producer surpassing Chery and the Koreans Hyundai and Kia in just one month!
Looking at the remaining top 20, the highlights were Peugeot climbing to #16 and Ford jumping two spots to #17, with the US producer set to climb a few more positions in the coming months.
Let’s look at registrations by OEM. At the end of Q1, Tesla was leading with 15.5% share, with a 1.2 percentage point advantage over BYD. Now, BYD is the leader, with 15.6% share, up 0.2 points compared to April. Tesla is second, with 12.6% share, down from 13.5%.
SAIC (8.6%, up slightly from 8.5% in April) and Volkswagen Group (7.8%) remained in 3rd and 4th, respectively, while rising #5 Hyundai–Kia (5.8%, up from 5.7% in April) remained ahead of #6 Geely–Volvo (5.7%) and #7 Stellantis (5.5%).
Stellantis’ Chrysler Airflow
Looking into the future, the main four OEMs have different challenges ahead that might limit their sales in the foreseeable future:
BYD’s challenge: Exports — With the fast growth strategy basically relying on its domestic market, and the Shenzhen brand now third in the overall market, the limits before reaching market saturation are starting to become visible. So, for the brand to continue growing at the same pace, it will need to export massively, and one wonders how successful and how fast will it be in overseas markets. True — it has a few success stories — but will they multiply enough to generate significant volume growth?
Tesla’s challenge: Limited lineup — With the Tesla Model S and X far from their best days, which were some 120,000 units together, the Model 3 currently on Autopilot (just up 1% YoY), growth is currently on the shoulders of the Tesla Model Y, which should see its growth extend throughout 2023 but on a much lower level. So, one wonders where Tesla will find an extra 0.75 million units in 2023 to keep its average 50% growth rate. The Semi won’t count, because it plays in a different category (heavy-duty vehicles). The Cybertruck won’t count either, because it will only start production by mid-2023, and with a new platform and production method, do not expect significant volumes before 2024. The Roadster should also be discarded, because not only is it a niche player, but it should only enter into production by late 2023. As for the “Model C” — mid-2024 … at best. And by then, the market will be at a whole different level.
SAIC’s challenge: Wuling Mini EV addiction — With the little Wuling Mini EV representing 58% of SAIC’s total plugin sales, the Shanghai OEM has a significant case of one-model addiction, and it’s not like Tesla, where it doesn’t have a full lineup of models to avoid it. No, SAIC’s case is strange, in that despite having no blocks to exporting it (it sold 50,000 units last year in Europe alone) and having only a few okay sellers, like the Roewe Clever EV (also a city car) or the MG eHS, SAIC has failed to create another best selling model that it can rely upon in case the Wuling Mini EV falls out of fashion. Will the upcoming MG4/Mulan become the answer to this question?
Volkswagen Group’s challenge: China — While many of the immediate problems that the German conglomerate has in Europe are short-term production constraints and should be solved with time, the truth is that the group is in danger of losing its most important market, China, where there have been seismic changes in the automotive market due to the rise and rise of plugins. With Volkswagen being the perennial leader in the largest market in the world, a large share of Volkswagen’s sales (and profits) come from there. However, with plugins quickly growing there, to the point that they are already representing over 30% of sales, connected to the fact that Volkswagen Group only has some 3.5% to 4% of the plugin market there, one wonders where the OEM will compensate the massive losses it will suffer in China. It won’t be in Europe, where it already has to face off stiff competition — old (Stellantis, Hyundai–Kia) and new (Tesla, Chinese OEMs). It won’t be in North America either, because whatever growth the German group gets there will be a fraction of what it will lose in China. So … if they really need to stay one of the Big Boys, they need to recover significant ground in China, which raises the question: Are they willing to throw everything plus the kitchen sink into the most competitive, cutthroat market in the world? I mean, if they haven’t even launched the Skoda Enyaq there. …