By Jack Denton
Tesla’s share of the critical European battery-electric-vehicle market crumbled in the first month of 2021, and China has taken the top spot from Europe in the EV race, according to new research.
Tesla’s /zigman2/quotes/203558040/composite TSLA +3.16% trajectory in Europe is in decline. There were 1,619 registrations of Tesla’s battery-electric vehicles in 18 key European markets in January, representing 3.5% of all battery-electric vehicles registered that month, according to a report based on public data by automotive analyst Matthias Schmidt . In 2020, the U.S. car maker saw 1,977 vehicles registered in January—more than a 5% market share.
Those 18 markets include the European Union states—minus 13 countries in Central and Eastern Europe—as well as the U.K., Norway, Iceland, and Switzerland.
Schmidt called Tesla’s January performance “consistently low,” noting that the company’s European delivery schedule sees volumes peak at the end of each quarter. However, the analyst noted that Tesla’s 12-month rolling volumes have now fallen behind Hyundai /zigman2/quotes/206684590/delayed KR:005380 -0.22% and Kia /zigman2/quotes/206019389/delayed KR:000270 +0.98% , which are now the third-most popular EV group in Europe.
Tesla comfortably topped the European EV charts in 2019. It sold more than 109,000 vehicles that year, making up 31% of the region’s battery-electric-vehicle market. But the tide turned in 2020, with Tesla dropping behind both the brands of Volkswagen Group /zigman2/quotes/206919008/delayed XE:VOW +2.79% and the alliance between Renault /zigman2/quotes/200919924/delayed FR:RNO +3.26% , Nissan /zigman2/quotes/208298710/delayed JP:7201 +2.10% , and Mitsubishi /zigman2/quotes/208582984/delayed JP:8058 +1.87% .
Last year, Tesla made up just 13% of the European market despite a smaller proportional decline in the number of vehicles it sold—around 10%—from 109,000 in 2019 to nearly 98,000 in 2020.
According to Schmidt, who publishes the European Electric Car Report , it was the introduction of emissions targets, and the specter of massive fines, that accelerated the European car makers’ battle against Tesla for dominance.
More broadly in January, China raced past Europe to reclaim its crown as the world’s largest market for electric vehicles. There were 179,000 battery-electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles registered in China in January, compared with 110,000 in Europe.
The boost in China comes after a standout year for Europe. There were 1.33 million electric-vehicle registrations in Europe in 2020, topping 1.25 million in China, amid a pedal-to-the-metal push to increase EV adoption from European governments and supercharged demand from consumers.
China is home to a strong domestic electric-vehicle sector, including manufacturers Nio /zigman2/quotes/204905836/composite NIO +7.05% , Xpeng /zigman2/quotes/219982686/composite XPEV +9.08% , and BYD /zigman2/quotes/206867707/delayed HK:1211 +1.84% .
Schmidt’s report shows that Volkswagen Group, which manufactures VW, Audi, Skoda, Seat, and Porsche, remains the most popular battery-electric vehicle group in Europe, with more than 22% of the market share after 10,193 of its vehicles were registered.
It is closely followed by Stellantis /zigman2/quotes/204248628/composite STLA +2.02% , a group formed earlier this year through the merger of PSA—which included Peugeot and Citroën—and Fiat Chrysler. Stellantis sold 9,005 vehicles.
Behind Stellantis is Hyundai and Kia, increasingly popular in Europe, which had 7,087 registrations. That puts the Korean group ahead of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, with 6,018 registrations, though Renault’s Zoe remained the most popular battery-electric vehicle in Europe in January.
Then comes Mercedes-owner Daimler /zigman2/quotes/201850364/delayed XE:DAI +2.32% , BMW /zigman2/quotes/202432319/delayed XE:BMW +2.24% , and Volvo /zigman2/quotes/208939564/delayed SE:VOLV.B +2.06% , all with registrations ahead of Tesla in the first month of the year.
Germany remained the single largest market within Europe for electric vehicles. The 16,315 battery-electric vehicles registered in the country in January were more than the totals of the next-two largest markets, France and the U.K., combined.