Even as India's nascent electric vehicle (EV) industry continues on a generally slow growth trajectory and electric passenger vehicle OEMs are hardpressed to find customers, Europe is showing robust demand for electric cars. This, despite overall demand being on the decline.
According to market intelligence agency Jato Dynamics, the electrification shift continues at pace in Europe, with a significant result in March 2019. It was the first time that registrations of electrified cars (BEVs, PHEVs, HEVs) exceeded the 100,000 units mark, with a total of 125,400. Demand was up by 31%, mostly driven by German, Norwegian, Spanish and Dutch registrations. Electric and plug-in hybrids counted for almost half of that total, but the real driver of growth was the BEV, whose registrations increased by 85 percent.
The European car market registered its seventh consecutive month of decline in March 2019. With the ongoing political and economic uncertainty, including lack of clarity around Brexit, alongside consumer preoccupation with diesel bans in cities, meant that overall demand continued to decline, says Jato.
In March, 19 of the 27 markets posted negative results including the top 10 largest markets in Europe. The figures for Q1 CY2019 provide a broader snapshot into the downward trend, with only six countries recording growth.
Felipe Munoz, Jato’s global analyst, commented: “It was always going to be a challenge to maintain the growth rate we have seen in recent years thanks to recent events such as WLTP and legislation around diesel, as well as the impending CO2 targets. Despite the negative trend we have been seeing since September last year, the market is still strong in terms of volume and offer. In fact, a slowdown after many years of growth is not bad at all.”
The Tesla Model 3 is Europe's top-selling electric car, and also the top-selling premium midsize sedan.
According to Jato, the rapid volume growth of pure electric cars was mainly due to the outstanding results of Tesla and, on the back of strong demand for the Model 3, the brand entered the top 25 best-selling brands in Europe. The registrations of the Tesla Model 3 jumped from 3,747 units in February (revised) to 15,755 units in March, making it Europe’s top-selling electric car. The Tesla Model 3 was also the top-selling premium midsize car in March. While it was able to outsell its rivals in the sedan category in February, the smallest Tesla was able to outsell all of its rivals in March, including all body-types.
Diesel vehicles lose ground
At the same time, diesel cars continued to lose ground, and last month, they recorded the lowest monthly market share since September 2000. The total diesel registrations counted for 31.2 percent of total volume against 36.2 percent in March 2018, and 44.8 percent in March 2017. Despite the big drops posted last year it seems that concern among consumers is still affecting demand, and the trend has not hit rock bottom yet. The biggest drops were posted by Mercedes-Benz, Renault, Peugeot, Ford and Land Rover. In contrast, Volkswagen, Skoda and Seat saw increases in diesel registrations.
In terms of body type, the EU market continued to be dominated by SUVs, but Jato says their growth is slowing. In March, SUV registrations totalled 650,300 units, or 36.8 percent of total volume. However, their sales performance is not as strong as it has been in the past, with volume growing by “only” 5 percent. The volume was up 11.7 percent for small SUVs, and 5.3 percent for compact SUVs, the rest of the SUV market posted declines.
Volkswagen Group, Renault-Nissan and PSA led the SUV segment in March and in Q1 CY2019. The Volkswagen Golf continued to lead the European ranking by models, despite a 14 percent drop in volume in March. The best performer of the top 10 was the Opel/Vauxhall Corsa, which reported strong growth in the UK, Germany and France. The Corsa is an older product but sold almost the same quantity of units as the Volkswagen Polo, whose latest generation has been in the market for about a year.