Published on January 30th, 2021 |
by Jose Pontes

January 30th, 2021 by Jose Pontes 

While the overall automotive market was still in the red in December (-4% YoY), Europe’s passenger plugin vehicle market had an historic month, having registered a record 281,000 vehicles (+264% YoY!) — adding an amazing 115,000 units to the previous record, which was set in the previous month.

This impressive result shot December’s plugin share to 23% share (14% BEV), helping the 2020 numbers to rise 142% over those of the previous year, to well over 1 million units, and pulling the market into the … Disruption Zone. The 2020 PEV share ended at 11% share (6.2% for BEVs alone), a significant departure from the 3.6% of 2019 (2.2% BEVs), so we can say with some certainty that part of the fall on the overall market has more to do with the disruption provoked by plugins than Covid-related issues. And so, let the games begin. …

Expect 2021 to continue the disruptive trend. I expect 15%-plus 20% market share by the end of the year.

In December, BEVs ran fast (168,912 units, +223% YoY), but PHEVs were even faster (+347%, 112,260 units). So, in the final 2020 numbers, while plugin hybrids ended below full electrics (46% vs 54% share), they recovered a massive 10% share compared to the previous year.

Last month’s best seller, the Volkswagen ID.3, had a Tesla-like peak in December and has beaten the Tesla Model 3 in a high-tide month, the first time any model achieved such a feat.

Last month’s podium welcomed the fresh Renault Captur PHEV, with Renault for the first time placing two models in the top 5. It was also the first time that the French brand won the monthly Best Selling PHEV title. Something it will repeat in 2021?

#1 Volkswagen ID.3 — The much anticipated German EV was finally delivered in large volumes, by delivering a massive 28,108 units, which might make it look like the VW hatchback has finally grown into its big shoes, but one wonders how many of these registrations’ were actual deliveries and how many were just “self-registrations” in order to avoid the EU’s CO2 emission fines. Moving on, the first MEB-platform based EV had the most success in Germany (7,144 units), the Netherlands (6,083), and the UK (3,200), with Norway (2,303), France (2,550), and Sweden (2,564) also posting four-digit scores. Expect VW’s new baby to become a familiar face in the medal positions, racing with the Tesla Model 3 and Renault Zoe for the monthly best seller title. Unless, of course, the new VW ID.4 starts to cast its shadow over its lower-riding sibling.

#2 Tesla Model 3 — The 2019 Best Selling EV in Europe delivered a record 24,664 units, which in normal times would grant it the Best Seller honour. But in the current disruption period, anything can happen. … The sports sedan’s main markets in December were the UK (5,700 deliveries), Norway (4,232), and Germany (3,293 units), with Switzerland (1,560) and Denmark (1,460) also scoring four-digit results. Expect the Model 3 to continue in the race for #1 throughout 2021. Unless, of course, the new Tesla Model Y starts to cast its shadow over its lower-riding sibling. (Haven’t I written this already?)

#3 Renault Zoe — Despite ending only in 3rd, December was another great month for the French EV, with the 16,322 deliveries of the Renault model representing a record score. The automaker profited from a mature manufacturing capability that allows it to respond almost immediately to demand peaks, thus avoiding the pesky waiting lists that are so common with many other OEMs. Last month, the Zoe’s main markets were France (5,978 units) and Germany (5,349), with Italy (1,153 units) a distant 3rd. Expect the Zoe to continue competing for the leadership title during 2021, unless, of course, the new Renault Captur PHEV starts to cast its shadow over its lower-riding sibling. (I am sure I’ve already written something like this before. …)

#4 Hyundai Kona EV — Speaking about the Rise of the Crossovers, in December, we had Hyundai’s star EV shooting to its first five-digit score, with the small crossover hitting a record 11,340 deliveries last month. Is this peak Kona EV? With the upcoming Ioniq 5 not-so-compact crossover said to be a small revolution in the EV world, one wonders if the Kona EV won’t suffer from the new internal competition. Unless Hyundai lowers its price. … But enough futurology and back to last month’s performance: the Netherlands was the best market for the Hyundai nameplate, with a record 4,441 deliveries, followed by Germany (2,995 units), with Spain (578) being a distant 3rd.

#5 Renault Captur PHEV — Thanks to competitive pricing, at some 32,000€, it’s one of the cheapest PHEVs in Europe. It has an attractive design, and the small crossover from Renault has already won its first Best Seller trophy in the PHEV field, with 6,135 units delivered in December. The French model has proved to be a massive hit in Italy (2,120 units!), beating even its native France (1,437 units), while the 3rd largest market, at some distance, was Germany, with 806 deliveries. Now, this performance raises a few questions for the future: Will the small crossover be able to win the 2021 Best Seller title in the PHEV category? Will it be able to replicate the success of the Zoe in Germany? Will it start to eat into the Zoe territory? After all, we are living in the Crossover Craze era. …

Looking at the remaining December Best Sellers, the Nissan Leaf was #7, with the 5,424 registrations of last month representing the hatchback’s best performance in 33 months, confirming that the current EV Force is so strong that even an old Jedi like the Leaf can pull some tricks from its sword.

In such an outstanding month, 17 models out of this top 20 hit personal records, like the Audi e-tron (5,296 units), VW e-Up (3,751), and even Jaguar I-PACE, which surprised many by scoring a record 4,635 registrations (or were they self-registrations?) last month.

We also have two important freshmen showing up on the table, with the Fiat 500e jumping to #10 and the VW ID.4 coming literally out of nowhere to #11. Expect these two EVs to become familiar faces here. The Italian is set to win the city car category in 2021, while the German will do its best to beat the Tesla Model Y in the SUV category.

In the PHEV category, the Mercedes A250e couldn’t fend off the Renault Captur PHEV peak in December, but these two will have plenty of opportunities during 2021 to compete against each other, as no one else seems to be able to run at the same pace as these two. Although …

With the #13 SEAT Leon PHEV (4,353 units) and #14 Volkswagen Golf PHEV (4,245) in ramp-up mode and their Czech cousin Skoda Octavia PHEV also starting its production ramp-up, not forgetting the BMW X1 PHEV (record 3,788 units), the PHEV title will have plenty of candidates playing in the biggest pool of the European market, the compact category, so the days when the Mitsubishi Outlander effortlessly owned the PHEV category are now long gone, and all the better for that — the more choices there are on the market, the easier it gets for consumers to make the switch.

And having said that about PHEVs, the same goes for fully electric vehicles!

A final reference goes out to the #19 Volvo XC40 PHEV, which was one of the few models not to score a record result in December, and the main reason for that is internal competition, as its XC40 Recharge EV twin is now fully in ramp-up mode (3,269 units), and it seems to be draining its sales. …

Outside the top 20, the 3,246 registrations of the Renault Twingo EV also deserve a reference. Although, one wonders how the small Renault will react to the arrival of its significantly cheaper Romanian cousin, the Dacia Spring, in a few months. The Mazda MX-30 also scored a record 3,238 registrations. Although, this is another case where we can imagine many of these registrations were made for compliance purposes.

Looking at the 2020 ranking, the Renault Zoe secured its 3rd Best Seller title. After the 2016 and ’17 trophies, the French hatchback managed to beat last year’s winner, the Tesla Model 3, thanks to a deep refresh made in late 2019 that allowed it to more than double its sales in 2020, touching the 100,000 units in one year marker.

The runner-up Tesla Model 3 saw its deliveries dip 8% compared to 2019, from 95,000 units to the 87,000 of 2020, and this in a year of disruptive growth, which could raise the question: Is the Tesla Model Y shadow already making itself felt?

The last place on the podium went to the Volkswagen ID.3, which jumped 3 spots in the last stage of the race, allowing the German EV to win its first medal — surely the first of many.

A reference also goes out to the Nissan Leaf, which jumped to #7 — still insufficient to reach the #4 spot it had in 2019, though.

In the PHEV League, after years and years of domination, the Best Seller since 2012, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, was finally beaten! Thanks to a year-end peak, the Mercedes A250e managed to surpass the Japanese SUV and the Volvo XC40 PHEV, allowing the compact Mercedes model to win the category’s 2020 race while earning the #10 position in the overall plugin table. For reference, in 2019, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV ended in #3, only behind the Renault Zoe and Tesla Model 3, but we now have a completely BEV top 9!

Looking at the remaining position changes, the Volvo XC60 PHEV and BMW i3 were up one position each, to #15 and #16, respectively, while the Mercedes GLC300e/de joined the table in December, ending the year in #19.

In the brand ranking, Volkswagen (12% share, up 1 percentage point) won the automaker title, with the German brand jumping from 5th in 2019 to the leadership position! Not bad for a year zero.

The silver medal changed hands in the last stage of the race, with Mercedes (9%) beating Renault (also 9%) by just 5,000 units. This is the three-pointed-star’s first podium position. Renault repeated its 2019 win of the bronze medal.

Off the podium, BMW (8%) managed to beat Tesla and Volvo (both with 7% share) in the race for the 4th position.

Interestingly, while Volkswagen and Mercedes joined the podium, BMW was down from 2nd in 2019 to 4th, while the 2019 best seller, Tesla, was down to 5th, with its share dropping from 20% in 2019, to its current 7%.

BEV D-Segment / Midsize Category

Tesla’s midsize sedan sales ended in another galaxy, even though it has seen its sales drop by 8%.

In fact, Tesla’s midsizer won’t have significant competition in the near future, at least until its Model Y sibling lands, as the Polestar 2 (record 3,188 units last month) seems too niche for the moment, and with expansion plans only set to be enabled by mid-2021, don’t expect much more from the Sino-Swede in 2021.

The upcoming Ford Mustang Mach-E’s production levels are still a question mark, and as for the BMW iX3, I believe the Bavarian automaker will be happy if it comes close to the Mercedes EQC … which, by the way, has beaten its personal best once again, having delivered 2,979 units last month. So, it seems the Mercedes midsize SUV’s slooow ramp-up still hasn’t ended, and should continue in the following months.

As for the rest of the podium, the Jaguar I-PACE profited from the new, cheaper EV320 version, to suddenly see its registrations jump to 4,635 units, the sports SUV’s best score ever. Now, how much of these were self-registrations?…

BEV E-Segment / Full Size Category

The e-tron domination is unquestionable and continues to grow, with the Big Audi scoring 5,296 registrations last month, and its sales growing 26% YoY. Considering the already significant sales volumes of the Belgian-made Audi, one wonders for how long the growth rates will be sustained, and when the peak e-tron moment will arrive. With Audi already discounting its big EV, expect this moment to come soon.

With the #2 Porsche Taycan (2,209 registrations last month, a new record) accelerating its sales once again, the main interest lays in the 3rd spot, where the luxury van with windows Mercedes EQV (1,367 units) has managed to beat both flagship Teslas (Model X — 1,357 / Model S — 1,129) in December.

Still, in the whole of 2020, the Tesla Model X was 3rd, with 6,253 registrations, but in 2021, there will be several models landing (Audi e-tron GT, Mercedes EQS, BMW iNext) that have potential not only to beat the Teslas, but also the Porsche Taycan, making the 2021 race all the more interesting to follow. 


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About the Author

Jose Pontes Always interested in the auto industry, particularly in electric cars, Jose has been overviewing the sales evolution of plug-ins through the EV Sales blog since 2012, 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 now a partner in EV-Volumes and works with the European Alternative Fuels Observatory on EV sales matters.