September saw plugin EVs take a record 29.3% of the French auto market, up from 24.2% year on year. Full electrics alone took close to 20% of the market, also a new record high. Diesels hit a record low, at 8.5% share. Overall auto volume was 156,303 units, up some 11% YoY, though still under the 2017-2019 seasonal average (roughly 163,000 units). The Tesla Model Y remains France’s bestselling electric vehicle.
September saw plugin EVs take a record 29.3% combined share, comprising 19.3% full electrics (BEVs), and 10.0% plugin hybrids (PHEVs). These compare with YoY figures of 24.2%, with 15.9% BEV, and 8.2% PHEV.
Year to date cumulative plugin shares currently stand at 24.9% combined, with 15.9% BEV. This is up YoY from 20.6% combined, and 12.7% BEV. I’m expecting 2023 full year to be 26% combined, with nearly 17% BEV, up YoY from 21.6% combined, and 13.3% BEV.
This will mean BEVs have grown share by a steady 3% to 4% each year, since the end of 2019 – okay but not earth shattering (see evolution graph below), and behind the growth rates of some other countries.
In volume terms, BEVs were up 34% YoY to 30,174 units, and PHEVs were up 35% to 15,670, both outcompeting the overall market.
Diesel-only vehicles saw further declines, shedding 35% of volume YoY, to 13,263 units, and a record low market share of 8.5%. With this their 4th consecutive month of single digit results, it seems unlikely they will ever see north of 10% again.
The Tesla Model Y was once again the bestselling BEV in September, with a near-record 5,035 units. Only March this year was higher (6,455 units).
Not too far behind was the Peugeot 208, with a healthy 3,924 units, a new record volume. The Dacia Spring took third with 2,514 units.
Relatively strong performances were seen for the Citroen e-C4 in 9th position (596 units, a new personal best), the Audi Q4 e-tron in 15th (423 units, also a PB), and the BMW iX1 in 16th (405 units, another PB).
Other than these, there was little by way of notable stories from the top 20, and we unfortunately don’t have enough data resolution to identify new BEV model debuts onto the market.
Let’s look at the trailing quarter volumes of the top 20 BEVs:
The 208 has climbed strongly from 5th in the previous period (April to June). The Renault Twingo also climbed well, to 8th from 14th previously. Other climbers in the top 20 include the Skoda Enyaq, Citroen e-C4, BMW iX1, and Audi Q4 e-tron.
The 11% YoY recovery of the auto market helped France’s broader economy remain in positive territory, with latest July figures showing 1.0% YoY GDP growth. Inflation remains high at 4.9%, with interest rates at 4.5%. Manufacturing PMI fell back to 44.2 points in September, from 46.0 in August.
Looking at those indicators relevant to future auto market preferences, road fuel prices increased in September, whereas electricity prices fell. Other things being equal, this should nudge car buyers’ preferences further towards plugins and away from combustion-only vehicles.
France will introduce new rules for eligibility of the eco-bonus (currently €3,000 to €5,000 per vehicle) in the coming months. The new system will designate an “emissions score” which attempts to take in to account emissions-of-manufacture of a given car model. The new system is planned to come in to effect for vehicle orders placed after mid-December.
This new approach is primarily designed to serve as a carrot-and-stick mechanism, pushing manufacturers towards a holistic view of vehicle emissions, not just in use, but also in manufacture. I say primarily, because – although in the long run, this is no doubt a necessary step to move towards emissions reduction – in the short term, there is also a whiff of economic protectionism at work.
Since France’s electricity grid is mostly nuclear powered, this means that cars (and their material constituents) processed and produced in local factories will do relatively well under his new emission regime, compared to those produced in regions whose grids still rely more heavily on gas and coal. These latter regions includes the major auto producing nations of Germany, China, Japan, and Korea.
Whilst surely a worthwhile goal to move towards in the long run, how the new accounting will disrupt the French auto market in the short to medium term is somewhat unpredictable. Manufacturers of finished goods, in this case the most complex type of finished goods – cars – and their suppliers (and their suppliers, etc) face a novel challenge to accurately account for all emissions in their ultra-complex supply chains. There are suggestions that some aspects of the new system will be phased in, to help climb the steep learning curve.
Which vehicles will come out looking good, and which less good, remains to be seen. The devil is in the details, and it will likely take time for this new system to become fairly accurate and effective. We also don’t yet know how the eco-bonus will be calibrated with respect to the emissions scores (please let us know if you have access to the latest news on this).
However, it seems clear to all involved that French-produced vehicles are likely to immediately score relatively well, under the new rules. Not least because – in addition to France’s nuclear-powered grid – even the emissions from the transportation of the car from factory to customer are scored – obviously favouring local production.
What are your thoughts on France’s auto market and transition towards EVs? Please share your perspective in the comments below.
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