The Battle For Germany Begins — Tesla Leads On Models & Brand, Volkswagen Group 1st Among OEMs

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After the subsidies-derived sales rush of December, leading to a historic performance, Germany’s plugin vehicle (PEV) market was bound to have a hangover month in January.

And so it did, with this market starting the year with a 33% drop over the same month last year. The almost 40,000 units registered in January 2022 dropped to fewer than 27,000 units this year.

The main culprits for the dismal performance were plugin hybrids (PHEVs), which fell by 53% YoY. Meanwhile, full electrics (BEVs) dropped “just” 16%, to 18,136 units. Pure electrics thus started the year well ahead of plugin hybrids (67% vs 33%), which is far more favorable for BEVs than the result in January of last year (53% vs 47%) and 2022 as a whole (56% vs 44%). It seems evident that 2023 will be the year that PHEVs fall from grace in Germany. It will also be the first year that PHEVs face a market without the support of subsidies…. #NoCoincidences.

This performance allowed the PEV share to start the year at 15.1%, with BEVs alone hitting 10.1%. That is below the January 2022 market share (22% PEV, 11% BEV), but expect these numbers to climb throughout the year, eventually surpassing last year’s result (31% PEV, 18% BEV). We should see a few 40%-plus months in Germany in 2023 … and perhaps 50%-plus months by the end of the year?

top selling electric vehicles in Germany. Tesla Model Y number 1

Looking at the January best sellers, we should make a disclosure first: with several brands playing the “pre-registration” game at the end of 2022, do not give too much value to these first results, as they are impacted by the previous pre-registrations.

Still, there are a few trends that are already visible, one of them being the race between Tesla and Volkswagen Group. Both started the year in full speed mode, each using the best of their strengths.

The Tesla Model Y started the year with an amazing 4,108 registrations, almost four times more units than the runner-up! This allowed the crossover to end the month in 4th in the overall auto market! That might have already settled the discussion regarding this year’s best seller title — in January….

The silver medal was probably the biggest surprise of them all, with the newish Audi Q8 e-tron (a deep refresh of the old Audi e-tron) starting its career with 1,131 registrations. That gives the German SUV an early lead over the remaining competition in the full size category.

The big Audi was just one example of the cavalry that Volkswagen Group recruited in January. The German conglomerate placed five models in the top six positions, and nine models in the top 20. Heck, even the Porsche Taycan (10th in January) was called in for duty!

In the second half of the table, the main surprise is the appearance of the Mazda MX-30 in #11, with the funky compact crossover scoring 499 registrations. That was its best result since December 2020. It seems there is still some life in Mazda in Europe.

There is a record result to celebrate. In #12, the Volkswagen Multivan PHEV, a van-with-windows inspired by a certain ID.BUZZ, scored a record 465 registrations. That made it the surprise leader of the PHEV category! It was just ahead of another unexpected appearance in this table, the #13 Lynk & Co 01 PHEV.

Do not expect Volkswagen’s van-with-windows MPV to stay ahead in the PHEV category, as the category big boys will soon return. (We’re looking at you, Mercedes GLC.) Also, the Volkswagen model will suffer from the internal competition of the aforementioned ID.BUZZ, currently in production ramp-up mode.

With this in mind, the current category runner-up, Geely’s Lynk & Co 01, looks poised to become one of the surprises of this year and a contender for the PHEV leadership trophy in 2023. Now, imagine — a Chinese model … winning the PHEV race … in Germany….

Outside the top 20, in #21, we have yet another Volkswagen Group model, the Audi A6 PHEV (319 registrations). That’s 10 models from Volkswagen Group in the first 21 positions. One thing is certain, Volkswagen does have a looong range of solutions. It might not have the LeBron James of the league, but its bench is the best out there.

Finally, an interesting point, one the Mercedes should reflect on: the flagship Mercedes EQS outsold its cheaper brother, the EQE, in January (284 vs 256). While the EQS is fulfilling its role as the BEV counterpart to the best selling S-Class, the EQE is failing to do the same regarding the E-Class, even being outsold by the six-figure EQS.

Given that the two models share the same attributes, and even the same basic design, one has to wonder why one is failing at the same time the other is flourishing. Is it the greater competition the EQE faces? The fact that the EQS has a hatchback, making it more versatile? Is it other reasons? One thing is certain: while the EQS SUV will only add to the regular EQS’s successful career, the EQE SUV will have the not-so-insignificant task of succeeding where its sedan counterpart has failed. Then there’s the added problem that the regular EQE doesn’t have direct competition (except the niche Audi e-tron GT and Porsche Taycan), while the SUV version will have to deal with the already established (and refreshed) Audi Q8 e-tron and the rising BMW iX.

Germany Top Selling Brands EV Sales Report January 2023

In the brand ranking, high-voltage Tesla (17.1%) shocked the local competition, starting the year in the lead with a significant advantage over Volkswagen (13,4%). It was, nevertheless, a positive start for the Wolfsburg make, especially considering that last year it started in 3rd with 9.9% share.

Mercedes (11.5%) profited from strong results across its extensive lineup to start the year in the last place on the podium, followed by Audi in #4 (10.4%).

BMW had a slow start, in 5th with a paltry 5.2% share. It will be interesting to see if this was just the result of a heavy investment in pre-registrations in the last months of the previous year, with the Bavarian brand recovering in the next few months, or if there is any Tesla influence working on it. Let’s not forget: of the three German Premium Marys, BMW is the most affected by Tesla’s success, considering that customer demographics of BMW and Tesla are the most similar.

Germany TOP OEM Electric Vehicle Sales Report January 2023

Looking at OEMs, Volkswagen Group (35.2%) started the year charging full speed ahead, starting 2023 a full 10 percentage points above January 2022. With the rise of Tesla, at 17.1%, which surged to a shocking 2nd place, Volkswagen Group does not want to leave any chance for the US brand to compete for the OEM title in Germany. With that in mind, in order to counter the success of the superstar Tesla Model Y, the German group relies on a strong (and long) lineup. Who will win? Please make your bets now!

Mercedes-Benz Group was 3rd, with 14.2%. Stellantis, only 6.8%, is far off the podium, at least starting the year ahead of BMW Group (6.4%).

In 6th, we have the Renault–Nissan Alliance, with 4.2% share. It must be hoping that the Dacia Spring and Renault Megane EV will help the alliance join the top 5 soon.


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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 466 posts and counting. See all posts by José Pontes