Tesla remains Europe’s lead plug-in brand, but Volkswagen is recovering

09 June 2023


Tesla led the way in plug-in registrations in April, but Volkswagen (VW) is improving its position with impressive figures. José Pontes, data director at EV-volumes.com, explores the data from across the region.

April saw around 197,000 plug-in vehicles registered in Europe, which is up 25% year on year. Unfortunately, the overall new-car market grew almost as fast, increasing by 16% and getting close to one million sales as its recovery continues.

Battery-electric vehicle (BEV) registrations are up 50% year on year. The technology continued to gain momentum in April, while plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) were down by 4%. These performances meant BEVs represented 64% of plug-in registrations in the month and 65% between January and April.

Overall, plug-in vehicles took a 21% share of the overall European automotive market in April with 13% of this made up of BEVs. In the first fourth months of the year, the plug-in vehicle share sat at 21% with BEVs again responsible for 13%.

Tesla leads sales

The Tesla Model Y lead the overall market for the sixth month in a row, gathering 10,778 registrations in April. This is likely linked to recent price cuts, as well as the Model Y’s balanced supply-and-demand ratio, allowing for quick delivery for anyone interested consumers.

The midsize crossover should continue to post similar results in the coming quarters in Europe, but sales are unlikely to increase significantly over current volumes, as the Model Y has already reached the market’s natural limits, where buyers look for something more exclusive or more suitable to their needs from the growing EV model range. The Model Y’s biggest European markets in April included the UK (1,550 units), France (1,333 units), and Germany (1,636 units).

VW’s ID.4 jumped to the runner-up spot in April with 6,682 registrations. Increased production availability helped this growth, thanks to manufacturing sites in the US and Germany adding additional volume to the original plant in Zwickau. The ID.4’s main markets were Germany (2,203 registrations), followed by the UK (620 registrations), Norway (602 registrations), and Sweden (661 registrations).

Available with both PHEV and BEV powertrains, the Volvo XC40 came in third. The BEV version was the main driver of growth, with 4,037 registrations. While the XC40 does not particularly stand out, it also has no weak points, with a no-nonsense appeal contributing to its continued success. It recorded 6,004 registrations in April, with the sales distribution being even across several medium-sized markets, such as Sweden (793 registrations) and the Netherlands (699 registrations). The UK was also a big driver of registrations with 876 units taking to the roads.

After a tough 2022, the compact VW ID.3 came back to life, earning another top-five spot in April thanks to 5,927 registrations. With the recent facelift giving it a slightly more purposeful look and better interior materials, the German hatchback is looking to draw in fresh customers. Its main markets were Germany (2,050 registrations) and the UK (1,115 registrations), with the remaining markets ending some distance behind, such as France (439 registrations) and Norway (391 registrations).

Taking fifth place with 5,101 registrations was the Skoda Enyaq. While sales did not reach the level of its group stablemate, the ID.4, the Enyaq was nevertheless the surprise of the month. Germany was by far its largest market, with 1,405 registrations, followed by the UK (555 registrations), Norway (454 registrations), Sweden (346 registrations), and Switzerland (342 registrations).

In seventh, the MG4 proved it is a force to be reckoned with. Elsewhere, the BMW i4 was 14th with 3,061 registrations, making it the group’s best-selling model. The Polestar 2 and Mercedes-Benz EQA also made it onto the table, in 17th and 20th place respectively.

Below the top 20, there were several positive performances, like the recently introduced BMW iX1 crossover, with 2,361 registrations. Meanwhile, the Mini Cooper EV saw 2,281 registrations. The Kia EV6 reach 2,342 deliveries, beating its Hyundai Ioniq 5 cousin by just 12 units (2,330 registrations).

Finally, despite having only two representatives on the table, Stellantis had three other models achieve significant scores. This includes the Peugeot 2008 electric crossover (2,058 registrations) and Opel’s BEVs, the Corsa EV (2,207 registrations) and the Mokka EV (2,116 registrations).

Segment success

The Tesla Model Y continued to rule supreme in the D-segment. Even in the off-peak month of April, it recorded 10,553 registrations. The Model Y was followed by the Mercedes-Benz C-Class (7,017 registrations) and the Volvo XC60 (6,259 registrations). Interestingly, 58% of Volvo’s SUV sales came from its PHEV version, once again highlighting the rise of plug-in power.

As for the C-segment, VW Group and its namesake brand in particular, performed well. Besides having four of the top five best sellers in the compact plug-in vehicle ranking (VW ID.4, VW ID.3, Skoda Enyaq, and Audi Q4), the overall compact podium is 100% VW. The T-Roc led the chart, followed by the Tiguan and the Golf.

The A-segment successes were the Fiat 500 (overall) and Dacia Spring (plug-in). The B-segment, saw the Dacia Sandero and Peugeot 208 EV do well. In the D-segment, the Tesla Model Y took both titles, while the E-segment crowned the BMW 5 Series.

Tesla dominates in first four months

Looking at the first four months of 2023, the Tesla Model Y recorded three times as many deliveries as the runner-up, the Volvo XC40. So, the attention is now focused on the remaining top-three positions.

In second, the Volvo XC40 managed to hold onto its place. This was despite strong results from VW’s ID EVs which both passed the Tesla Model 3 and rose to third and fourth, respectively. One of the reasons for the Model 3’s 33% year-on-year delivery drop in Europe, is the black hole effect of its Model Y sibling.

Furthermore, this could keep happening, because the Model Y will always be lurking behind the Model 3, claiming potential purchases. But the Model 3 can take some solace from the fact that every other entrant in the midsize category is experiencing the same effect.

Elsewhere, the remaining position changes saw the rise of two other MEB-platform models, with the 11th place Skoda Enyaq and 18th place Cupra Born both climbing one position. This is something the BMW i4 also achieved, making it from 20th in March to 19th in April, passing the Hyundai Ioniq 5. The Hyundai Kona EV rose to 16th, with the carmaker’s crossover now making its last celebratory lap before handing over the baton.

Carmaker competition

In April’s carmaker rankings, Tesla lead with a comfortable 12.6% share, while VW took the runner-up position at 8.2%, up 0.3% compared to March. The third spot saw a position change, with BMW (7.7%, up from 7.4%) surpassing Mercedes-Benz (7.7%, up 0.1%). But with only 500 units between them, a lot can still happen between these two carmakers. Finally, Volvo (6.5%) is comfortable in fifth, with sixth-placed Audi (5.4%) some distance away.

Comparing these results with what was happening a year ago, Tesla’s leap is impressive, having added 5.7% to its share. But VW’s progression is also visible, having increased its share by 2.1%. The biggest loser is BMW, which lost 1.8% in market share, no doubt due to being hit by the PHEV sales drop.

Looking at automotive groups, VW Group rose to a 19.6% market share, maintaining a comfortable lead over Stellantis (13.9%), which surpassed an off-peak Tesla (12.6%). The US carmaker can be expected to recover the second spot soon — if not in May, then certainly in June.

Elsewhere in fourth, BMW Group climbed up to 9.3% and Geely–Volvo up to fifth with 9.2%. With sixth place Mercedes-Benz Group some distance away (8.6%, up from 8.4%), Geely can focus on trying to retake fourth from BMW Group.