Tesla Model Y Steals the Show in Europe! Best Selling Car on the Continent!

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The Tesla Model Y was the the best selling model in Europe in Q1!! All powertrains included!!!

Some 322,000 plugin vehicles were registered in March in Europe — which is +29% year over year (YoY). In fact, March was the second best month ever for plugin vehicle (PEV) registrations, only trailing December when the market hit 413,000 registrations. Unfortunately, the overall market grew almost as fast, +26%, to over 1.4 million units, as it tried to leave behind several crises and return to 2019 levels (Covid-19, chip crisis, battery crisis, supply chain woes, Ukraine conflict, etc.).

Last month’s plugin vehicle share of the overall European auto market was 23% (16% full electrics/BEVs). That result pulled the 2023 plugin vehicle share up by 2 percentage points, to 21% (14% for BEVs alone).

BEVs (+44% YoY) keep gaining momentum, while PHEVs (+4%) had their first positive month of the year. So, it seems the worst from the loss of incentives in a number of markets at the end of 2022 is now a thing of the past. These performances allowed pure electrics to represent over two-thirds of plugin registrations last month (69% vs. 31%), pulling the YTD share to 66%.

The big highlight of the month was the Tesla Model Y leading the overall market, but let’s look closer at March’s plugin top 5:

#1 Tesla Model Y — It was a historical month for Tesla’s crossover. In March, the midsizer had 46,697 registrations, an amazing record result — that no doubt benefited from the recent price cuts and also from the fact that the Model Y is one of the few EVs that has a balanced supply-and-demand ratio, allowing for quick delivery for anyone interested in buying one. This awesome result pulled the Model Y to the top of the overall European auto market, almost doubling the result of the #2 Opel Corsa. This moment could be considered “Peak Model Y” in Europe. Sure, the midsize crossover should continue to post similar results in the coming quarters in Europe, but do not expect sales to increase significantly over current volumes, as the Model Y has already reached the market’s natural limits*. Regarding last month’s performance, the Model Y was #1 in the overall market in 10 different European markets, including in the UK (8,123 units), EV-loving Norway (7,554), Sweden (3,202), the Netherlands (2,366), and Austria (1,162). Other relevant high-volume markets were France (6,455 units) and Germany (5,701 units).

(* The point where no matter how compelling the vehicle is, because there are already several in the neighborhood, people just go for something else. Some people have called this in the past the Toyota Camry effect. Adding to this, we are walking into a maturing market, where people are spoiled with different choices, so even if the alternatives are more expensive and/or consumers have to wait, people go elsewhere because they have different needs or just want something more exclusive.)

#2 Tesla Model 3 — The other Tesla also benefitted from Tesla’s expected end-of-quarter peak, reaching the runner-up position as a result. So, Tesla got the gold and silver in March. Although, the 13,600 deliveries were a significant drop from the almost 20,000 units that the Tesla sedan experienced 12 months ago. I guess suffering from the Model Y’s black hole effect is the biggest downside of playing on the same team as the league’s MVP.… Anyway, with the best external competition ending just at #16 (BMW i4), I believe the Model 3 won’t have serious competition for the prize of best midsize car in the near future. Not even the promising VW ID.7 should get close. (BTW, VW: Congrats! It’s the most compelling EV that you have launched so far…. Now, please don’t go all elitist with the pricing.). Last month, the Model 3’s main markets were Germany (2,560 units), the UK (2,310 units), France (2,008), and Italy (1,123 units).

#3 Volvo XC40 (BEV+PHEV) — The compact Swede is a sure value in the EV arena, and with the BEV version being the main driver of growth (6,541 units), Volvo’s SUV ended the month on the podium, only behind the peak month Teslas. The XC40 doesn’t really stand out on any item in particular, but it also doesn’t have weak points, making it a no-nonsense option that contributes to its continued success. In March, it had 8,957 registrations, with the XC40 sales distribution being even across several medium-sized markets, like Sweden (1,285 units), the Netherlands (1,270 units), and Norway (933 units), with the UK also being a big receptor of units (1,207 units).

#4 VW ID.3 — After a tough 2022, the compact Volkswagen has come back to life, even earning another top 5 presence in March thanks to 8,583 registrations. With the restyling giving it a (slightly) more purposeful look, losing a bit of its “happy puppy” look while getting better interior materials, the German hatchback is looking to replicate the VW Golf’s decades-old success recipe: Not especially good or bad at anything, and a design that doesn’t scare anyone. It now only needs to have a pragmatic, no-nonsense interior like the VW Golf of the good ol’ days. … (If those VW Golfs of the past were a political party, they would be a centrist party, looking to house as many voters as possible under their umbrella. But then again, under current political polarization globally, pragmatic centrists are not really fashionable. …) But I digress. Back to the ID.3’s March performance. Its main markets were its home market of Germany (2,582 units), the UK (2,234), Norway (603), Belgium (521) and the Netherlands, where it got 502 registrations.

#5 MG 4 — If the Tesla Model Y was the Star of the Month, the pointy MG was the Surprise of Month. The Dragon Slayer is starting to live up to its nickname, having outsold all its competition, bar the VW ID.3. With a record 7,759 sales, the compact hatchback is still very much in ramp-up mode. The UK was by far its largest market, with 4,204 sales, followed by Germany(!), with 1,389 sales, France (997 sales), and in 4th place … Italy, with just 284 sales. This means that MG is still picking up the low hanging fruit and is early in ramp-up mode, focusing on its European home and a couple of other larger markets while leaving the rest of the continent to a later stage. With an unparalleled price-vs.-specs ratio, the compact MG is the current category golden standard by which every ambitious newcomer (Zeekr X, Euro-spec BYD Dolphin, future compact Tesla, etc.) will have to respond.

Europe EV Sales Table March 2023

Looking at the rest of the March table, the surprises were the record result of the Peugeot 208 EV (8th, with 6,459 sales) and the Kia EV6 (17th, with 3,897 sales). Expect the sporty Korean crossover to be one of the category best sellers (although, a price cut would further help sales), most likely staying in the table in the coming months. The French hatchback, meanwhile, is looking to recover lost time and benefit from revised specs to return to top positions in the next few months.

Moving on, the #9 Ford Kuga PHEV was the best selling PHEV in the table, with 5,835 registrations. This time, the Ford crossover was at a safe distance from the category runner-up Volvo XC60 PHEV (#19, with 3,715 registrations). These continued strong performances coming from the US crossover is a good omen for the upcoming Ford Explorer EV, a compact BEV based on the MEB platform that is set to land late this year or early 2024.

Another impressive performance comes from the veteran Hyundai Kona EV, getting to #15 with 4,134 registrations, with the Korean make milking to the last drop the current generation of the small crossover before the new one arrives. And then there was the BMW i4 showing up in #16, with 3,933 registrations, thus being the best selling model from BMW Group.

Speaking of BMW, below the top 20, we have the recent iX1 crossover, ramping up deliveries to its current 3,038 units. Expect the compact Bimmer to join the table soon. Despite not having any representative in the top 20, Mercedes had several models performing well, like the compact EQA (3,645 units) and EQB (2,222). On the PHEV side, the Mercedes C-Class PHEV (2,303 units, a new record) and the new-generation GLC PHEV (2,664) also posted positive results.

There were a few other highlights, like the new Audi Q8 e-tron + old e-tron keeping the full size leadership position with 2,685 registrations. The Toyota bZ4X continued to slowly ramp up, registering 1,985 units last month. It looks like the Japanese SUV is finally getting its act together and ramping up production. Now the question is: How high will Toyota want to go with its production output?

Finally, something of an oddball: absent for years from getting close to the best sellers table, JLR (yes, that JLR — Jaguar Land Rover) managed to deliver a record 2,179 Range Rover Evoques in March. It seems they finally got a hold of enough chips (and batteries…) to start delivering their models in decent numbers. Does this mean that JLR is out of the woods? No. Not by a long shot. But at least it now has a compass to help it get out of the darkness….

Looking at the category’s overall leaders, and unlike in China, where it is clear that the plugin market and the overall market are merging, in Europe, there is still a significant road to follow, visible by the fact that the only EVs that show up on the tables are both Teslas, in the midsize category.

As for the rest, EVs are still knocking at the door of the podium, at best, like is the case in the city car category, a segment that is also suffering from the loss of model variety. It is a neglected category waiting to be explored by newcoming models….

On the remaining categories, ICE is still king, with the main surprise for me being the compact (C-segment) category, where the three top sellers are all crossovers….

Looking at the 2023 ranking, with the Tesla Model Y now having three times as many deliveries as the runner-up Volvo XC40, the attention is now focused on the remaining podium positions.

The second placed Volvo XC40 managed to hold onto silver, despite the Tesla Model 3’s peak month (which got it to surge 11 positions surge in the table). One of the reasons for that is the 40% delivery drop that the sedan experienced this quarter in Europe, no doubt hurt by the black hole effect of its sibling Model Y. And there are no price cuts that can prevent this from happening again and again, because the Model Y will always be lurking behind the Model 3, stealing potential clients. After all, Europeans prefer the practicality of station wagons or crossovers/SUVs to sedans, and with the Model Y being on average just 5,000 euros more expensive that the Model 3, it’s really a no-brainer. Having said that, the Model 3 can take solace in the fact that due to the Tesla Model Y black hole effect, everyone else in the midsize category is also bleeding sales.

Europe EV Sales Table Q1 2023

The other big climber was the MG 4, up seven spots, to #10, with the value-for-money-focused model looking to climb a few more positions in the coming months.

The PHEV title is now firmly in the hands of the #11 Ford Kuga PHEV. With the #14 Volvo XC60 PHEV and #17 Lynk & Co 01 PHEV now more worried about staying on the table than reaching the Ford crossover, it looks like another title is in sight for the Dearborn model. And by the way, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Ford Kuga PHEV ended the year as the only plugin hybrid model on the table.

Elsewhere, the remaining position changes were the rise of two models, with the #15 Kia Niro and #19 Cupra Born both climbing one position.

Finally, we had two return to the table. The Hyundai Kona EV showed up in #18, with Hyundai’s crossover now making its last celebratory lap before handing over the baton to the new generation …

… and in #20, we have a meaningful event that highlights the current BEV-friendly trend: the BMW i4 replaced its sibling BMW 3 Series PHEV in the best sellers table! Not only that, the plugin hybrid BMW was also surpassed in March by two other BEV midsizers, the #21 Kia EV6 and #22 Polestar 2. This means that the top six midsize plugin models are all BEVs. … Who said BEVs were only fit for small cars?

In the automaker ranking, Tesla thrashed the competition, jumping an amazing 5.2% points to a leading 14.2% share, at the cost of everyone else, with the remaining competition all losing share.

Still, Volkswagen was the one that suffered the least, losing just 0.4% and dropping to 7.9%. The rest of the players here lost at least half a percent share.

Arranging things by automotive group, Volkswagen Group had to make the best use of its long lineup to sustain the losses and keep a surging Tesla (14.2%) at bay. The German conglomerate ended the quarter with 19.1% share, down from 20.8% in February.

Stellantis (13.7%, down from 14.4%) also managed to control its losses. The multinational conglomerate nonetheless lost the #2 spot to Tesla, which jumped three positions in just one month. Because Stellantis is still within 0.5% of Tesla, it can dream of catching the US maker for the time being.

The remaining competition also lost share, with the biggest damage happening to Geely–Volvo (8.9%, down from 10.2%), which dropped two positions from the previous month, from 3rd to 5th.

Still, with #6 Mercedes Group (8.4%) at some distance, Geely can still focus on looking ahead and try to recapture #4 BMW Group next month.


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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