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Sweden’s BEVs Take Over Third Of Market

Sweden’s plugin electric vehicle share recovered in September, gaining 55.2% of the auto market, from 53.9% a year ago. Full electrics saw 35.3% share, their 2nd highest ever from last December. Plugin hybrids fell slightly year on year. Overall auto volumes were down 3% YoY, and some 21% down from pre-2020 seasonal norms. The bestselling BEV in September was again the Volkswagen ID.4.

September’s combined plugin result of 55.2% comprised a near record 35.3% battery electrics (BEVs), and 19.8% plugin hybrids (PHEVs). These compare with respective shares of 32.9%, and 21.0%, a year ago. Thus BEVs have grown share modestly, but PHEVs have fallen. The BEV share was nevertheless the highest YTD, and second only to the December 2021 peak (see timeline graph below).

In terms of volume, in an overall auto market shrinking 3% YoY, BEVs grew slightly (7,454 to 7,777), and PHEVs lost volume (4,751 to 4,370).

Plugin growth is obviously lacklustre overall in September, and YTD, though not for lack of BEV demand. Tesla’s recent production pauses meant that their Sweden delivery volume was only 915 units in September, down by over 1,000 units YoY (from 1,979 units).

If we put Tesla to one side momentarily, non-Tesla BEVs have actually increased their delivery volumes by 25.3% YoY, painting a much healthier picture. Had Tesla simply matched this trend (or more likely exceeded it), BEVs would have taken a new record of 37.6% share in September.

There is no lack of demand growth for BEVs — there are in fact long waiting times — the issue simply relates to a lack of supply to deliver to Swedish consumers.

On the flip side, combustion-only share fell to under 32% for the first time on record. Their combined volume dropped by almost 20% YoY, to 7,033 units, a new low (and less than BEV sales). The steady decline in combustion-only sales obvious leads to a gradual decrease in the fleet of polluting vehicles on Sweden’s roads.

Top BEVs

With Tesla’s Shanghai snaffus, their habitual end-of-quarter peak — which has given them the top spot in each end-of-quarter over the past year — was not enough to outdo competitors this time around. Instead, Volkswagen took the top spot with the ID.4, from the Volvo XC40 and the Kia Niro.

The Volvo is back in the top ranks, after spending the past 3 months in the wilderness (well outside the top 20). Its sibling, the Volvo C40, also had a similar fate, gaining 7th spot.

The Kia Niro, typically a regular in Sweden’s top 3 over recent years, had seen a notable drop off in July and August, as stocks of the previous variant ran out, and the refreshed version was incoming. Now that the new version has finally appeared, the Niro is back in the top 3.

Other notables in September included the first appearance in Sweden of the new Nissan Ariya. It saw initial volumes of 55 units, and will likely climb rapidly from here. The eagerly anticipated MG4 also made a first appearance, though only at showroom volumes for now (6 units). It will be at least another month or two before it arrives in notable volumes, but seems likely destined for the top 10 given its competitive pricing, and the popularity of its older MG ZS sibling (regularly in the top 5 over the past year).

Stepping back for a wider perspective, let’s look at the trailing 3-month performance of the top BEV models:

Year to date, the Tesla Model Y has always been in the top 3, and often the leader. With the under-performing end of quarter peak this time around (likely temporary, discussed above), it has now dropped to 6th spot.

The Volkswagen ID.4, also regularly in the top 3, has now taken the top spot. Its group-sibling, the Skoda Enyaq, has stepped up to 2nd.

Despite a low September volume, the MG ZS is in 3rd over the 3 months. The Kia Niro has dropped some spots during the refresh, but returned to strength in September, so is set to regain the top 3 soon.

Here’s a summary of the main climbers in the most recent 3 months, compared to the April-to-June period:

Meanwhile which models lost their ranks? The Tesla Model Y suffered, as we have discussed. Here’s the roundup:

Note that we can’t draw too many deep conclusions from one set of results. The e-tron and Marvel R were both climbing the ranks in our July report, whilst the Leaf was falling. For now, their fates are reversed.

In a relatively low volume market like Sweden, the most we can say is that logistics batching and similar allocation decisions can change the ranking quite significantly over short periods.

Models consistently inside the top 10 are obviously doing something right in terms of value proposition and appeal, but  — at this still early stage in the EV transitions — may owe much of their success to simply “turning up” in available volumes.

Conversely, models outside the top 10 may also be very compelling, just constrained by supply (either global, or that which is allocated to Sweden). For example, the Cupra Born may be in the latter category, and the MG4 is too, for now at least.

Until global battery production capacity (and other key supply chains) have caught up with growth in BEV demand, we won’t know which models, brands, and value propositions folks will chose in an open and unconstrained market. This won’t fully shake out until the early 2030s at least.

Outlook

Sweden’s auto market is firmly in the hot zone of the transition to EV, though the progress this year is being constrained by supply. In the big picture, demand is arguably much more important, and in this respect it is clear that Sweden has already firmly voted to quickly transition to EVs.

With road fuel prices significantly up across Europe, relative interest in plugins remains strong. Despite high electricity prices, and shocking rates of overall energy price inflation, the running cost savings for plugins compared to combustion vehicles are still very substantial.

The growth in plugin share over the remaining months will continue to be shaped almost entirely by supply volumes, rather than by any constraint in demand. We know that many BEVs still have 12 month waiting lists, whereas combustion-only vehicles have shorter wait times on average, juicing their performance.

What are your expectations for Sweden’s transition over the remainder of this year, and into 2023? Please jump into the comments below to share your thoughts.

 

 
 
 
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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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