Portugal’s EV market driven by PHEVs in May

02 July 2024


Portugal’s electric vehicle (EV) market continued to impress in May, thanks mainly to the performance of plug-in hybrids (PHEVs). José Pontes, data director at EV Volumes, explores the market with Autovista24 special content editor Phil Curry.

Portugal’s EV market, made up of battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) continued to grow in May. It has become one of the leading plug-in countries in Europe in terms of market share.

PHEV registrations surged in the month, with volumes up 12.6% year on year. The powertrain saw its third-best-ever result in May, with 2,601 registrations, just 122 units below the technology’s record of November 2023.

However, BEV deliveries declined 6.8% in May, equating to over 200 fewer units. Together, the EV market represented 29% of all deliveries in the month. Including the number of hybrids registered, 44% of overall passenger car registrations were electrified.

In the first five months of the year, the EV market made up 28% of all registrations. BEV deliveries increased by 12% in this period, taking a 16% market hold. Meanwhile, PHEV figures improved by 23% to take 12% of total deliveries.

By 2035, Portugal’s passenger-car market is likely to be mostly electrified. Whether the country can transition from internal-combustion engines and towards purely BEVs, remains to be seen.

Leading by example

Portugal is one of Europe’s leading EV markets in terms of share. This is in stark contrast to its neighbour Spain, where the technology is struggling. Its market share of 28% also sits higher than Austria (23%), the UK (24%) and even France (26%).

There are three primary and interwoven reasons for this:

  • The country’s automotive culture regards cars as a fashion statement. It also sees EVs as the next big thing which is helping increase sales.
  • Portugal offers generous company-car benefits, namely value-added tax (VAT) deductibility, for BEV and PHEV models. The importance of the company-car market in the overall passenger car market is a big boost for EVs.
  • There are other fiscal incentives for plug-in ownership, such as annual road tax reductions and free parking. However, it seems the main reason for the market’s popularity in Portugal is tied to the company-car benefits and cultural advantages.

PHEVs also have access to incentives in Portugal. This is important as just under half of the EV market is held by plug-in hybrids. Meanwhile, Tesla is responsible for more than 25% of BEV deliveries, but this is not a sign of a healthy market.

Model 3 takes top spot

The best-selling EV chart saw Tesla leading the way in May. However, unlike other European markets, it is the Model 3 in the top spot, with 704 registrations. This represented a 96% year-on-year increase for the sedan.

With the Portuguese market less interested in SUVs, and the recent refresh of the Model 3, it has become a popular choice for buyers.

Second place went to the Volvo EX30, with 245 registrations. The model is building its presence in Europe and is proving popular in Portugal. In third was the Audi A3 PHEV, which took a record 227 registrations in May.

The Tesla Model Y, currently the most popular EV in Europe, was a distant fourth during the month, highlighting the BEV market’s struggles with 200 units delivered. The crossover dropped 56% in the same period.

While this may seem a small amount for a model’s record monthly total, Portugal does not command large volumes. Like Iceland and Ireland, it is a smaller automotive market. As such it sees deliveries of some vehicles made in batches, rather than a steady flow.

Therefore, some months may see certain vehicles get a very small number of unit deliveries to customers but will suddenly see a spike as imports rise. However, these units will satisfy a backlog, rather than entice new customers.

PHEVs prove popular

Confirming the interest in PHEVs, fifth, sixth and seventh place were held by models using the powertrain. The Volvo S/V60 PHEV was the highest placed, with a record 176 registrations. This was followed by the Mercedes-Benz A250e PHEV with 146 deliveries, and the Volvo XC60 PHEV, which ended the month with a best-ever 136 units.

Peugeot had a positive performance in May, with the new e-2008 EV (117 units) and e-208 EV (104 units) reaching their best scores for the year on their way to eighth and 10th respectively. In between these two models came the MG4 (111 units) in ninth position.

The BMW iX1 continued to expand its deliveries and reached a record 94 units in May, confirming the crossover’s popularity. The Mercedes-Benz CLA250e PHEV remained popular in 14th place, posting 93 units.

Mercedes-Benz mastery

The Audi Q4 e-Tron ended the month in 15th with its best result in a year, thanks to 88 registrations. Meanwhile, the Mercedes-Benz EQA ended the month in 18th (84 units). This was the last of four models from the German make in the top 20, allowing it to be the most represented brand in the table.

Then came the Kia Sportage PHEV, which saw a record 82 registrations in 19th. Meanwhile, the Toyota RAV 4 PHEV also scored a record month in 20th with 81 deliveries. These two models experienced the same delivery effect as the Tesla Model Y. Alongside the Audi Q4 e-Tron, these cars were likely part of the same manufacturer delivery as the Audi A3 PHEV.

Outside the top 20, the Mercedes-Benz EQB had 59 registrations, its best result in almost two years. Meanwhile, the VW ID.3 (50 units), scored its best result since last August.

Chinese whispers

Provisional tariffs continue to hang over models imported into the EU from China. These duties could affect the market in the coming months. If such fees are levied on these deliveries, their popularity may suffer as prices rise.

The Tesla Model 3 would be affected, yet its lead should be sufficient to help it hold on to first place. With 3,049 registrations in the first five months of the year, it is 1,877 units clear of the Tesla Model Y in second.

However, the crossover could be in trouble. Its 1,172 registrations between January and May could slow significantly if the slump witnessed in May continues. The main candidate to replace it is the Mercedes-Benz A250e PHEV, which sat in third place with 997 registrations.

The fourth-place Volvo EX30 was close behind (843 units). Despite this, the carmaker is expected to slow deliveries into Portugal as the model’s popularity elsewhere in Europe increases.

In sixth, the Peugeot 308, with its BEV and PHEV variants, was a surprise leader among the Stellantis brands, with 612 registrations. This was ahead of the Citroen e-Berlingo MPV, the group’s second-best-selling vehicle in the year to date, with 446 units giving it 11th place in the table.

The only other model in January to May top 20 that could be affected by tariffs is the MG4, which claimed eighth with 508 units. However, it may drop places, especially if the highest levy is applied to parent company SAIC.

Brand recognition

Looking at the brand rankings in the first five months of the year, Mercedes-Benz benefitted from the popularity of its line-up to become Portugal’s best-selling EV brand. It even beat Tesla with its 15.8% market share ahead of the US manufacturer’s 15.6% hold. BMW was behind its domestic rival, accounting for 11.7% of plug-in deliveries.

The results show that investments made by Mercedes-Benz in its PHEV range, with bigger batteries and combined charging system availability, are paying off. This has allowed it to distance itself from its German rivals, which are focused on BEV technologies.

In fourth was Volvo, with an 8.3% market share, mostly due to the performance of the EX30. Peugeot took fifth in the brand rankings, accounting for 6.4% of EV registrations. The manufacturer was comfortably ahead of Audi in sixth, which held a 4.7% share.

Grouping brands together under the parent companies, there was a close tussle at the top, with Mercedes-Benz (15.8%), Tesla (15.6%) and Stellantis (15%) fighting for first. VW Group (12.5%) and BMW Group (12.2%) were not far behind. This is likely one of the closest fought group-based markets in the world.

With Tesla possibly suffering from smaller volumes coming from the Model 3, Mercedes-Benz seems the favourite at this moment. Still, Stellantis could surpass the German OEM by the end of the year, potentially benefitting from increased volumes coming from its new and lower-cost models. This includes the Citroen e-C3, Citroen e-C3 Aircross, Opel Frontera and Fiat Grande Panda.

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