For the first time in European history, electrified cars have outsold diesels

This tumultuous year of car sales and industry news still has a few aces up its sleeve, with electrified cars outselling diesel for the first time across Europe. Buoyed by deliveries of cars like the Volkswagen ID.3 and continuing anti-diesel sentiment, EVs, PHEVs, hybrids and mild hybrids are making up the shortfall.

The historic achievement is despite new car sales dipping by almost a third across all 27 markets in JATO Dynamics' data for the first nine months of the year. But there is increasing confidence in the market with one per cent more cars sold in September 2020 compared to the same month last year at 1.3 million units.

Whilst the return of buoyancy in across Europe and single-digit growth is a good thing, looking into the data shows that it's electrified cars driving this resurgence. Both diesel and petrol registrations took a nose dive – between them selling 12 per cent less than September 2019, yet the demand for EVs has increased by 139 per cent. In terms of percentages, 47 per cent of new cars sold in September were petrol, 24.8 per cent diesel and 25 per cent electrified – pipping diesel in terms of raw numbers. Last year, electrified cars accounted for just 11 per cent, with diesel at 29 per cent and petrol 59 per cent.

Some 327,800 electrified cars have hit the roads in September, which is also a record in terms of pure volume. It's the first time this section of the market has sold more than 300,000 units and only the second time that it has accounted for more than 20 per cent of all registrations for a single month.

Diesel's sub-quarter market share demonstrates the nosedive it has taken since its dominance in the late ’00s and early 2010s. Ten years ago, for example, 50 per cent of new car sales were diesels whilst EVs made up less than one per cent.

Obviously, talking about 'electrified' vehicles encompasses not only battery electric, but plug-in hybrid, pure hybrid and mild hybrid – the latter two of which are the most popular representing 53 per cent of electrified car registrations. Toyota and Lexus dominate the hybrid segment taking 32 per cent, but Ford, Suzuki, Fiat and BMW have also turned to the tech (especially MHEV) and are making up ground. For example, 69 per cent of new Ford Pumas are sold as MHEVs, whilst 50 per cent of Fiat 500s and 41 per cent of Fiat Pandas are hybrids.

Volkswagen Group has been the big winner in all this, returning to profitability during the month at 2.4 billion euros. Whilst this is still 12.4 billion off last year, thanks to sales being 18.7 per cent lower, it sold some 40,300 electrified vehicles in Europe. This moves it up the charts to sit behind only Toyota in this area – and it's important to bear in mind that VW has a greater selection of PHEVs and EVs across Group brands than the Japanese manufacturer.

UK has a bad September

Despite the comparatively good news across the rest of Europe, the UK had the worst new plate September since the twice-per-year registrations were brought in two decades ago. A -4.4 per cent figure for new car registrations puts the month 15.8 per cent lower than the 10 year average for the month.

Reflecting the situation across the whole continent, it was electrified cars that pulled their weight. Diesel dropped -38.4 per cent vs. 2019 and petrol posted -20.9 per cent, yet BEV registrations increased 184.3 per cent, PHEVs 138.6 per cent, hybrids 55.8 per cent, MHEV diesel 66.4 per cent and MHEV petrol 422.1 per cent – albeit the final two are growing from a very low starting point.

In terms of market share, pure EVs now make up 5.4 per cent of the market for the year to date, whilst PHEVs take 3.4 per cent. Last year these figures were 1.3 per cent and 1.2 per cent respectively, demonstrating just how far we've come in that time – despite the market challenges.


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