Global plugin vehicle registrations were up 28% in March 2023 compared to March 2022. There were 1,097,000 registrations, making it the second best month ever for plugin electric vehicles, only behind December 2022. In the end, plugins represented 16% share of the overall auto market (12% BEV share alone). This means that the global automotive market is in the Electric Disruption Zone.
Interestingly, plugless hybrids also surpassed the 1 million mark in March, rising to 1,004,000 units. This is the first time they managed to do so, which means that in total, over two million units in March, or 31% of the global market, had some form of electrification.
Year to date, plugin electric vehicle market share grew slightly to 13% (9% BEV).
Fully electric vehicles (BEVs) represented 72% of plugin registrations in March, pulling up its year-to-date tally by two percentage points to 68% share.
20 Best Selling EV Models in the World in March
Looking at March best sellers, there were no surprises on the podium. The Tesla Model Y was high above everyone else, with a new all-time EV record of 145,306 registrations, making it without any doubt the best selling car in March, all powertrains included, beating global best sellers like the Toyota Corolla and RAV4. Year to date, I am not sure that the Model Y is #1, but it shouldn’t be far from it…. To be continued
This time, the Tesla Model 3 managed to beat the BYD Song and ended above the Chinese SUV, thanks to Tesla’s usual end-of-quarter push.
What was a surprise was the #4 BYD Qin Plus ending just 150 units behind its sibling BYD Song. Thanks to a recent refresh and, maybe above all else, a price cut, sales of the sedan jumped in March, with the PHEV version even hitting a new record (31,325 units).
Speaking of records, the following two BYD models, the #5 BYD Yuan Plus (aka Atto 3 in many export markets) and #6 Dolphin, also hit record results. That’s thanks to good results in their native China, but also increasing volumes in export markets.
But the BYD models weren’t the only ones scoring record performances, as the #7 GAC Aion S scored its second record result in a row, this time with 26,393 registrations. In fact, highlighting GAC’s positive moment, the Guangzhou make placed its other star player, the Aion Y, in 11th place.
The second half of the table also saw records being broken, with the cutesy Geely Panda Mini ending the month at #15 with 10,550 registrations, in only its second volume month! Expect Geely’s take on the Wuling Mini EV (even the name is similar) to make a dent (or, depending on the impact, a giant hole) in the Wuling Mini EV’s sales.
Denza’s D9 large MPV also continued to get a production ramp-up, with 10,398 registrations logged in March. It ended the month in #16. Meanwhile, Changan’s “Model 3,” the #19 Shenlan SL03, also hit a record 9,575 registrations. Still in China, the MG 4 production ramp-up has finally allowed it to show up on the table, in #20, with the hatchback scoring a record 9,247 registrations. Expect it to continue rising in the table, possibly reaching a top 10 spot sometime in the future.
On the legacy model front, Volkswagen Group models were the stars. Besides the usual presence of the VW ID.4, which ended the month in #9, the VW ID.3 surged to #13 thanks to 11,674 registrations. Also, the Audi Q4 e-tron got its first top 20 presence, in #18, thanks to a record 10,142 registrations.
Outside the top 20, there is plenty to talk about, from the good results of Hyundai–Kia models — with the Kia EV6 reaching 8,634 registrations and Hyundai’s Ioniq 5 getting 8,909 registrations — to the surprising scores of the BAIC EU-Series (8,135 registrations) and Buick Velite 6 (7,206 registrations). The BAIC model passed up the positive results of BMW’s current best sellers, the iX3 (6,330 registrations) and i4 (6,177 registrations).
There are also other models on the rise, with the BYD Frigate 07 (6,455 registrations), Peugeot 208 EV (6,554 registrations), Jeep Wrangler PHEV (6,439 registrations), and Toyota bZ4X (5,674 registrations) all scoring record results. Meanwhile, the lovechild of Geely and Mercedes, the Smart #1 crossover, is starting to reach significant volumes, having delivered a record 6,229 units in March. With volume European deliveries starting soon, there is a chance the quirky model will start showing up on the top 20.
Finally, Li Auto’s L7 5-seat, full-size SUV landed last month, with a significant 7,702 registrations. Expect the startup’s smaller model (but still 5-meters long…) to show up on the best sellers table soon.
Top 20 EV Models in 1st Quarter
In the year-to-date (YTD) table, there was nothing new on the podium, with the Tesla Model Y ruling supreme above the BYD Song. The Chinese SUV did keep enough distance from the Tesla Model 3 to resist its end-of-quarter peak and keep the silver medal.
Despite the significant price cuts, sales of Tesla’s sedan grew a mere 4% year over year (YoY), which confirms that the Model 3 is now in its mature stage and only a significant refresh could spark sales once again. At least the midsize sedan’s deliveries aren’t on a downward trend, something that can’t be said about the Model S/X flagship models. Despite also benefitting from significant price cuts last quarter, these larger, higher-end Teslas saw their sales drop by 27% in the first quarter of the year….
The first position change happened with the BYD Qin Plus jumping two positions. The sedan benefitted from recent price cuts and climbed to 5th.
Keeping an impressive streak, GAC’s Aion S surpassed the BYD Han and climbed another position, to 8th. Two positions below, the VW ID.4 did the same to the BYD Tang and was up to 10th.
While BYD’s flagship models seem to be losing charge, Denza’s D9 model is on the rise, with the large MPV from BYD’s premium brand jumping four positions, to #14. Will it be able to beat the current full size leader BYD Han? Doubt it. But having scored close to 25,000 units in the first quarter, meaning an annual pace of 100,000+ units/year, the D9 is starting to reach Toyota Alphard/Sienna sales levels, which is already significant in itself.
But it is behind the big Chinese minivan that the fun starts, with several models changing positions and two fresh faces in the top 20. The cutesy Changan Lumin jumped two positions, to #15, while below it, there is a sort of revenge of the legacy OEM models, with three models jumping positions, starting with the VW ID.3 joining the table in #16. The ID.3’s premium cousin, the Audi Q4 e-tron, joined the best sellers table for the first time, in #18. Additionally, the Hyundai Ioniq 5 climbed two positions, to #17. This means there were five legacy OEM models in the top 20, three of them coming from Volkswagen Group. Could 2023 be the year that legacy OEMs start clawing their way back into best seller positions in the plugin market as they fight for future survival in a BEV-based world?
Top Selling Brands
In March, BYD failed to reach a 200,000+ unit performance, which wasn’t enough to beat Tesla in its Q1 peak month. The US automaker reached a new record score, 207,655 registrations. It seems the pattern between these two for the rest of the year will be Tesla winning the end-of-quarter months when it benefits from its usual delivery peak, and BYD winning the remaining stages of the race.
Below the top two galactics, BMW returned to 3rd, with 40,787 registrations, thanks to consistent performances across its lineup. BMW’s highlights were the i4 and iX3, both at more than 6,000 registrations in March. The compact iX1 is currently in ramp-up mode, so expect the German automaker to continue expanding its sales throughout the year. Meanwhile, Volkswagen benefitted from positive performances from its dynamic duo, the ID.3 and ID.4, to reach the 4th position in March. It scored 40,278 registrations, only 500 units behind fellow German and bronze medalist BMW.
Actually, March had a really close race for the last place on the podium, because #5 GAC also ended the month close to the podium, losing out to BMW by just 756 units! The Chinese automaker continued to benefit from the recent sales surge of its Aion S sedan to post its second record performance in a row. Will the Guangzhou make continue with its record streak in April?
#8 SAIC had a positive month (finally!), with over 26,000 registrations, thanks to the ramp up of the new MG 4. The Sino-British model was responsible for over a third of SAIC’s deliveries. In a time when the Wuling Mini EV seems to be losing steam, a lot of SAIC’s success now falls on the pointy hatchback’s shoulders.
The second half of the table saw three legacy OEMs reach record results. #14 Hyundai scored 21,866 registrations, supported by positive performances of its best selling models. #17 Toyota got a record 13,316 registrations, mostly thanks to the ramp up of its Chinese operations (bZ4X and bZ3). With Toyota currently being the 3rd largest brand in China (and 2nd before the rise of BYD), it needs to ramp up its EV operations fast — or else it could say bye bye to the million-plus units it sells in that market.
#16 Peugeot got 15,138 units, in no small part thanks to the record performance of the 208 EV, but the 2008 EV and 3008 PHEV also helped, while the stylish (personally, I find it to be one of the most appealing designs coming out of the European brands) 408 PHEV crossover-fastback production ramp-up is starting to reach volume numbers (698 units last month) and could be another driver for growth for the French brand.
Still in the Stellantis stable, Jeep is profiting from record sales of the Wrangler PHEV (thanks in no small part to IRA incentives) and the production ramp-up of the Grand Cherokee PHEV (3,167 units), thus posting a near record score of 13,040 registrations and beating its US counterparts Ford and Chevrolet!
In the YTD table, there wasn’t much to report regarding the podium. BYD is ahead of Tesla, with the two makes together responsible for more than one third of the global plugin market.
Far below these two, which are really in a league of their own, BMW is comfortable in the 3rd spot, while below it, Volkswagen surpassed a slowing SGMW and returned to the 4th position.
GAC’s rise continued, climbing to 6th, and could climb higher in April considering that #5 SGMW is just 600 units ahead and the two brands are following opposite sales trends.
But not everything is bad news for Shanghai Auto, because the mother brand was up one spot, to 10th, thus partly compensating for the SAIC–GM–Wuling joint venture slowing down.
In the second half of the table, the highlights belong to Stellantis brands. Jeep climbed one position, to #16, while Peugeot benefitted from its record performance in March to jump four positions and end the quarter in #17. So, the multinational conglomerate placed two representatives in the best sellers table.
Just outside the top 20, we have another legacy OEM on the rise. Toyota is now in #21, with 28,900 registrations. #LegacyOEMsfightingfortheirlives
Comparing the current ranking with what was happening a year ago, the highlights are BYD’s rise to #1 and impressive market share gain (15.5% then, 20.4% now); GAC’s and Changan’s rise, from #12 to #6 and #14 to #9, respectively; Li Auto becoming the new darling among the Chinese new blood, jumping 9 spots in a year; and Geely continuing to rise, from #17 in March 2022 to its current #12 spot.
Interestingly, three out of the four new brands now present in the top 20 are legacy brands. Nissan and Ford returned to the best sellers table, and Jeep is currently experiencing its best moment ever in the plugin table. #LegacyOEMsfightingfortheirlives
It should be noted also that all four exiting brands that left the table since March 2022 were Chinese makes (Dongfeng, Great Wall, Chery, and XPeng), which could also mean that the Chinese market could now be going through a period of consolidation, with more sales going to fewer brands after a boom period where seemingly a new brand was popping up every week.
Top Selling OEMs for EV Sales
Looking at registrations by OEM, leader BYD lost significant share, going from 23.2% to its current 21.3%, while Tesla was up, to 16.5% share (it had 15% a month ago). This is all thanks to Tesla’s usual end-of-quarter peak.
Comparing to what was happening a year ago, while the two brands were neck and neck a year ago, BYD’s lead is now clear. But there is good news for Tesla too, because after years of slowly descending market share (not a great trend), its market share is actually up YoY! It rose from 15.5% a year ago to its current 16.5%. So, the price cuts did have a positive impact on sales, even if that is entirely on the shoulders of the Model Y….
3rd place is in the hands of Volkswagen Group, with the German OEM gaining 0.2% on the way (7.2% a month ago, 7.4% now). Meanwhile, #4 Geely–Volvo dropped slightly (6.1%, down from 6.2%), but still, the Chinese Volkswagen Group can’t complain, because a year ago, it was 5th, with just 5.5% share. Keep up the good work, Geely!
The same can’t be said about SAIC. Although it kept its #5 position, it lost another 0.2% month on month, with its current 5.5% share being down from 5.7% in February. Comparing with Q1 2022, the Shanghai OEM lost 3% market share and dropped two positions in the OEM table.
Below SAIC, Stellantis (4.9%, up from 4.7%) is firmly in the 6th spot and is hoping the SAIC sales slide will continue, allowing it to return to the OEM top 5.
Looking just at BEVs, Tesla* remained in the lead, with 23.6%, up from 22% in February. The US make has a comfortable lead over BYD (14.7%, down from 16%), making it unlikely the Chinese automaker will be able to remove Tesla from the BEV throne this year.
The last place on the podium saw a position change, with Volkswagen Group (7.5%, up from 7.3%) surpassing SAIC (7.4%, down 0.4%). And to think that a year ago SAIC was in 2nd, with 10.8% BEV market share…. 😮
In 5th we have Geely–Volvo, with 5.7%, up from 5.6%. The Chinese OEM is looking to reach #4 SAIC but still has a ways to climb.
* Looking at Tesla sales by regional market in this Q1, one thing surprised me. While I was expecting US Tesla sales to jump through the roof, thanks to the IRA incentives (making its domestic market the brand driver for growth in 2023), it turned out the biggest growth market for the brand was Europe. Tesla had 59% growth year on year in Europe, followed by the USA (37%) and China (28%). Though, while the growth in Europe is a positive surprise, above its expected 50% growth rate, the US growth of 37% is … underwhelming. Is it due to the fact that US buyers are not ready for mass EV adoption, or is Tesla already reaching the natural limits of its domestic market?
With the Model Y having been the best selling crossover in the USA in Q1, and the Model 3 being the second best selling sedan in the same period, only behind the Toyota Camry, there isn’t that much more room for Tesla to grow in the USA with its current lineup, so that Cybertruck is badly needed for the brand to continue growing at the same pace as it has so far. And focusing more on the forest than on a particular tree, with Tesla apparently reaching its natural limits in the USA, we now need the other OEMs to contribute for quicker EV adoption in the USA. With foreign OEMs currently focused on other parts of the world where there’s more EV demand, where there are stronger fuel economy (i.e., ZEV) requirements, and where their models are not discriminated against when it comes to incentives, it is up to local brands to ramp up production of existing models and quickly introduce and ramp up production of upcoming ones.
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