Plug-in vehicles make up 16% of global new-car sales in May

12 July 2023


Global plug-in vehicle registrations were up 50% year on year in May, reaching 1.06 million units. José Pontes, data director at, provides a guide to the electric disruption zone.

Plug-in vehicles, made up of battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), claimed a 16% share of the global new-car market in May. BEVs alone accounted for 11% of registrations, as more drivers around the world switched to electric drivetrains from conventional petrol and diesel models. Between January and May, plug-in vehicles took a 14% share of global new-car sales, with BEVs accounting for 10%, and PHEVs the remaining 4%.

Tesla in front again

Looking at May’s best-selling models there were no surprises in the top three, with the Tesla Model Y leading the pack. Meanwhile, the BYD Qin Plus once again beat the Tesla Model 3, profiting from the US company’s slower month.

The BYD Song ended May in fourth, ahead of its sibling, the Yuan Plus (the Atto 3 in some export markets). The Song has seen a recent facelift and price cut, with hopes this will bring in new buyers. However, with the recently introduced BYD Frigate, which took 18th place in the global market (10,005 registrations), acting as a potential in-house competitor, the Song may see numerous sales threats.

The much-awaited BYD Seagull had its first full month on the market. It achieved 14,300 registrations, a promising start for BYD’s new baby. With many analysts expecting it to become one of the best-selling models in China in the near future, it could result in 35,000 to 40,000 units per month for the carmaker.

China is already an EV-friendly market, with plenty of models to choose from. However, the Seagull could be far more disruptive overseas, should BYD export it. There are plenty of price-sensitive markets where small cars are popular and internal-combustion engine (ICE) models rule nearly unopposed. In locations like these, BYD’s city car would be a perfect fit.

Regarding record performances, the 15th place Li Auto L7 recorded 11,119 registrations. It is now close to surpassing the BYD Tang as the best-selling full-size SUV. The BYD Destroyer 05 also had an impressive May, finishing in 19th with 9,848 registrations.

Outside of the top 20, there is plenty to talk about. Despite the Li Auto L7’s success, other models from the startup are hanging on with notable volumes. The full-size crossover SUV L9 recorded 6,852 registrations and the L8 SUV 7,604.

In the midsize category, achieving a second record performance in a row, was the Leapmotor C11 SUV. Thanks to its new extended-range version, the car achieved 7,121 registrations, providing the startup with some much-needed volume. Elsewhere, the Jeep Wrangler PHEV reached 7,672 registrations in May, its best score in two years. The Audi Q4 e-Tron was 21st, just 11 units behind the Hyundai Ioniq 5.

As for the compact category, Great Wall’s Ora Good Cat made a respectable return, securing 8,268 registrations in May, its best result in 11 months. This is thanks to rising export-market volumes and a step up in deliveries in China, allowing it to sell at the same pace as the Volkswagen (VW) ID.3 (8,165 units) and the MG4 (8,297 units).

Success for Tesla

Between January and May, the Tesla Model Y continued to rule supreme above the BYD Song. The US crossover is currently the best-selling passenger car in the world, accounting for all powertrains.

In third, the Tesla Model 3 recovered some ground (400 units) over the BYD Song. Tesla’s midsize model could profit from the carmaker’s traditional performance boost in June, hoping to displace the Chinese SUV from the runner-up spot.

The leaderboard remained stable until the Denza D9, which climbed to 13th, switched places with the Volvo XC40. The large MPV benefitted from a strong performance in May and is looking to catch up with the BYD Tang in 12th. The BYD Frigate 07 was also up, rising one position to 19th. With registrations of this model continuing to rise, a jump up to 15th place could soon be on the cards.

The Geely Panda Mini reached 20th, while just below it the Li Auto L8 (just 800 units behind) came in 21st. The seven-seat PHEV SUV could surpass the Geely model in June, as the Panda Mini’s sales seem to be slowing.

BYD winning brand battle

In terms of brands, BYD recorded over 200,000 registrations in May, beating Tesla by a long way. However, it was an off-peak month for the US carmaker, so its relatively slow performance was expected.

The pattern between these two brands looks set to continue for the rest of the year. Tesla will win in months at the end of each quarter when it benefits from its usual delivery peak, while BYD will win the other stages of the race.

Elsewhere, the big surprise was GAC holding onto third, thanks to a record 45,016 registrations. This new record is thanks to another memorable performance from its two best-performing models, the Aion Y and Aion S. While the upcoming Aion SSR is unlikely to move the needle, GAC’s ultra-aerodynamic Aion Hyper GT sports sedan could ruffle some feathers in the full-size segment when it lands in July.

In eighth, Li Auto also had a record month, with over 28,000 registrations, thanks to strong results across its line-up. With the startup still suffering from supply constraints, the high-end brand can be expected to continue breaking records in the near future. This will only intensify when the L6 and L5 land next year.

The second half of the table saw Leapmotor make a return, reaching 20th thanks to the recent success of its C11 REEV midsize SUV. But the biggest brand surprise in May came from Toyota. The Japanese carmaker scored a record 14,219 registrations. This was thanks primarily to the ramp-up of its Chinese operations with its bZ4X and bZ3 fully-electric models, as well as steady results from the RAV4 PHEV and the new Prius PHEV.

In the Stellantis stable, Jeep profited from strong Wrangler PHEV sales, thanks partially to incentives as part of the US Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the production ramp-up of the Grand Cherokee PHEV. This meant the carmaker posted another good score of 13,465 registrations. With the all-electric Avenger having just landed in Europe, sales can be expected to increase even more in the coming months.

Between January and May, BYD stayed ahead of Tesla, with the two brands responsible for more than a third of the global plug-in vehicle market. Far below these two, is BMW in third place, followed by GAC Aion, which surpassed VW in May.

Li Auto’s rise also continued, climbing to ninth. It could rise even higher in June as eighth-place Volvo is only 5,000 units ahead. In the second half of the table, Kia climbed one position to 14th. Toyota also profited, rising to 17th and proving that the EV race is a marathon and not a sprint. Finally, Hozon joined the table in 20th, making it the eighth Chinese brand to do so.

The big winners

Looking at registrations by OEM, BYD took a market share of 21.9%, while Tesla was down to 14.8% after holding 15.4% of the market in April. Compared to 2022, both BYD (share up 6%) and Tesla (share up 2%) are the big winners. The latter has seen its success rest entirely on the shoulders of the Model Y, while BYD profited from a never-ending wave of new models.

Third place is in the hands of VW Group, remaining a steady distance from fourth place Geely–Volvo. As for fifth place SAIC, the recent success of the Wuling Bingo allowed it to stop the sales bleed, holding its share at 5.6%. Stellantis is firmly in sixth place (4.8%), a comfortable distance ahead of BMW Group in seventh (4.3%).

Looking just at BEVs, Tesla remained in the lead with 21.2%, down from 22.1% in April. The US carmaker holds a comfortable lead over BYD (15.4%). This makes it unlikely that the Chinese OEM will dethrone Tesla this year.

The last place on the podium saw a position change, with SAIC surpassing VW Group, if only by 80 units. Expect an entertaining race between these two over the remainder of the year. In fifth Geely–Volvo took a 6% share. The Chinese OEM would like to reach fourth place but still has some way to go. Still, Geely should check in the rear-view mirror and watch out for GAC in sixth (5.5% share).