Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) hit almost 7% of the Australian light vehicle market in February. That is over double the total from February 2022 and a slight increase from January 2023. If we add the 454 plugin hybrids (PHEVs) sold in February, the penetration rate of plugin vehicles rises to 7.2%.
Tesla continues to dominate the market. With more BEV models being launched throughout 2023, though, and an armada of ships carrying BEVs in transit to Australia, March is expected to be another big increase. Mind you, we predicted that February would be a more “normal” month for Tesla deliveries, and although many Model 3s were delivered, the numbers for Model Ys were disappointing.
With supply chains still returning to normal after the impact of COVID and the ongoing war in Ukraine, Australia is facing severe supply constraints. No cars are manufactured in Australia. Out of the almost 90,000 vehicles sold in February, about 6,000 were BEVs, 60% of which were Teslas (mainly Model 3s).
The Tesla Model 3 claimed 16% of the total passenger market with 2671 sales. The Model Y had 845 sales. The positions are expected to reverse in March as more Model Ys arrive from China. The Tesla Model 3 claimed the bronze medal on the podium — with the Ford Ranger taking gold and the Toyota HiLux the silver. Toyota sold the most cars in Australia in February (0ver 14,000).
The next ten electric models were: BYD Atto 3 (770), MG ZS EV (387), Polestar 2 (172), Hyundai Ioniq 5 (146), Hyundai Kona EV (88), Volvo C40 (59), Nissan Leaf (57), Mercedes EQ Series (55), BMW iX (46), and Kia EV6 (40).
In a change which should ring alarm bells at Toyota, BEVs outsold non-plug-in hybrids (HEVs) for the first time. Just 5716 HEVs were sold in February 2023.
“Though it continued to hold top spot as Australia’s most popular car brand, Toyota suffered the biggest mainstream loss at 31 per cent down, while electric carmaker Tesla once again entered the top 10 — appearing in ninth place both for the month and YTD,” Which Car writes.
One of the issues facing Australia is the traffic jam caused by quarantine restrictions. According to drive.com, more than two dozen ships, containing over 60,000 new motor vehicles (that is, one month’s deliveries), are sitting in ships off the Australian coast waiting for cleaning and quarantine clearance.
Apparently, wait times at exporting countries are leading to contamination exposure. Cars stored outside on grass are vulnerable to insect invasion, and seed contamination creates a biohazard that threatens Australian agriculture. It takes 24 hours working three shifts to unload a vessel carrying 3000 new cars — approximately 125 new cars per hour. But it takes a quarantine cleaning team 10 times as long to thoroughly check the cars — that’s 9 cars per hour. The cleaning teams are currently only working during business hours.
“In one instance, in the second half of last year, Chinese manufacturer MG reloaded 1000 cars onto a ship at Port Kembla (south of Sydney) and sent them back to China to be cleaned after a snail infestation.” Cars are imported in mixed batches. Tesla and Ford have now decided to charter their own vessels to avoid contamination and quarantine from rival vehicles.
“Growing sales of electric vehicles proves that where a battery electric product exists which suits the driving habits, needs and finances of Australian motorists, they will purchase these vehicles,” FCAI chief executive Tony Weber said in a statement. “The number of low emission vehicle sales demonstrates that there is an appetite among Australians for environmentally friendly vehicles.”
New models are coming: The Cupra Born from SEAT was launched in Perth at the end of February, and the Great Wall Motors website is asking for expressions of interest for the eagerly anticipated ORA Cat. And yes, I put my name down. We are still waiting for news on the ID.4 and the BYD Dolphin — both expected to launch this year.
The SEAT Cupra is described as an “all electric hot hatch” and has a range of over 500 km. Sadly, it is priced at around AU$60,000, so it is still not the car for the people we are looking for. In Australia, a Toyota Corolla HEV sells for $36,000, so the market is definitely looking for sub-$40,000 car.
The Cupra is built on Volkswagen Group’s MED platform and already has over 500 pre-orders in Australia.
The ORA Good Cat is due in showrooms in Australia in April and should sell in the mid AU$40,000. It will be Australia’s cheapest electric car and give BYD and MG a good run for their money in electric vehicles and may even take on the Corolla.
“Charging times are claimed as 41 minutes from 10 to 80 per cent with the 48kWh battery. GWM Haval Australia doesn’t quote a figure for how much charging power the Ora cars can accept (though, overseas specifications quote 80kW).
“The Ora Good Cat has earned a five-star safety rating in Europe, and GWM Haval Australia says it is ‘working directly with [local safety watchdog] ANCAP towards updating this for Australia and New Zealand and expect to be able to confirm this shortly.'”
Both Great Wall and SEAT have dealer support networks already set up in Australia and should avoid some of the pitfalls faced by BYD. I am expecting a smooth entry and a rapid take-up of these models — pending snails, seeds, and other biohazards.
Although petrol remains king of the drivetrains down under, the appetite is here in Australia — we just need car manufacturers to follow Tesla’s lead and bring in more stock. It is ludicrous when Hyundai brings in a small number of cars and the website crashes as people do the mad scramble to secure a vehicle. Check the trajectory in the chart below, which shows data to end of 2022. The progress is obvious.
Electric cars are becoming a more and more common sight on Brisbane roads. Yesterday, on a trip from the northern suburbs of into the CBD, we spotted lots of 3s and Ys, and also two MG ZS EVs, an Ioniq 5, and two Volvo XC40s. They are everywhere, even when I go to the local library there are cars charging (see picture at the top).
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