Only Tesla can keep up with the established manufacturers

French car brands have almost traditionally been very popular in Germany. Renault, for example, was the most successful imported brand for many years. And even today, it’s hard to imagine German roads without Twingo, Clio and the like. Why should this be any different with electric cars? On the contrary: Renault’s Zoe has been the most popular e-car in Germany for years. And the other electric models from France will certainly find buyers here in the future. But which other e-mobile brands are successful? How do the established manufacturers fare against newcomers like Tesla, e.GO Mobile & Co. And what role do light commercial vehicles play? JATO Dynamics took a look at the success story of the e-car brands on the German market over the last five years.

One thing is certain: the electric wave is unstoppable. Almost 200,000 battery electric vehicles (BEVs) were newly registered in Germany last year. In addition, there were roughly the same number of plug-in hybrids. Compared with previous years, this was the absolute breakthrough for electric vehicles. In 2016, the market share of internal combustion engines in all drive types was still more than 98 percent. By 2019, the decline was moderate. But last year it fell to a good 76 percent – almost one in four passenger cars already had an alternative drive in 2020.

BEVs in particular can point to a striking success curve. Whilst just over 11,000 of them were registered in 2016, this figure had already risen to more than 191,000 by last year, increasing their market share 17-fold, from 0.34 to 6.41 percent – naturally with the greatest growth in 2020. But there was also a noticeable upturn for other drive systems such as hybrids, mild hybrids and plug-in hybrids.

Newcomers have a hard time in Germany

But success is unevenly distributed. Not all brands have benefited equally from the electric boom. It is striking that despite Tesla’s considerable success, it is primarily the established manufacturers that are setting the tone for e-cars today. The example of the Americans, who came from nowhere and showed the world how a car can be built around a battery and a display, could have put other start-ups on the road to success. Just as it has happened in China. But in “car country” Germany, the wheels turn a little differently. Even promising newcomers like the e.GO Life have done a poor job of getting kilowatts on the road so far, meaning hardly any significant registration numbers.

For BEVs, Tesla remains the benchmark among the “new” manufacturers. Nevertheless, due to the increasing success of the other brands and despite almost nine times the sales figures, the market share has fallen. In 2016, it was still almost 17 percent with just over 1,900 vehicles sold. At the end of 2020, it had even slipped below six percent to 8.7 percent – with almost 16,700 units sold. Only Renault had better figures five years ago: a good 2,800 vehicles ensured almost 25 percent market share. By 2019, sales had risen to more than 9,400 units. But in 2020, the E train really took off for the French: 31,477 models were sold in just twelve months. Renault thus managed a market share of 16.4 percent.

Volkswagen has shaken up the market

However, they are not the market leader. This is just like Volkswagen with its combustion engine passenger cars. In 2020 – the first year of the ID.3, the vehicle with the highest hopes – the Wolfsburg company sold more than 45,000 e-vehicles. The year before, the figure was just under 8,000. And just five years ago, Volkswagen sold fewer e-cars than Tesla. Back then, the market share was 12.7 percent; in 2020, it was just under 24 percent. And with its Audi (4.3 percent), Porsche (1.7 percent), Seat (1.1 percent) and Skoda (2.5 percent) brands, the Volkswagen Group is the undisputed ruler among BEV manufacturers.

Of the new e-car brands, therefore, virtually none have achieved any market share worth mentioning so far, apart from Tesla. The only exception is the Work. The small van from StreetScooter, a subsidiary of Deutsche Post since 2014, has already dominated the German light electric commercial vehicle market for several years. Since 2017, more than 3,000 units have been sold every year, and in 2019 the figure was as high as 4,215. Last year, more than 3,400 units were registered – more than by Mercedes, Renault, MAN, Opel and Peugeot combined. But this extraordinary story is unfortunately coming to an end. Swiss Post is discontinuing production of its successful yellow car this year.

More information on JATO can be found here.

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