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The Tesla turnaround in Western Europe

Updated: Oct 21, 2021


Key points:

  • Every fourth BEV in September was a Tesla model

  • Tesla <1% point share in touch of Audi/Mercedes across W-Europe in September

  • Tesla's third quarter share of Western Europe's BEV market back at >15%

  • 12-month rolling volume (146,000) reaches new high thanks to Chinese imports

  • Tesla's total West European passenger car market share on track for 1.5% in 2021


Schmidt Automotive Research logo

Accounting for almost every third pure electric passenger car entering West European roads as recently ago as 2019, according to the monthly industry European Electric Car Report, Tesla's dominant position vanished almost overnight as 2020 rang-in. Sharpened EU CO2 fleet average emissions legislation forced incumbent manufacturers to join the electrified field, blunting Tesla's market-leading position. However, thanks to spare capacity in China, due partly to damaging reports regarding the safety of Tesla's models during the opening half, European exports appear to have filled that Chinese production void, partially accompanied by a production delay in Germany.

Failing to take advantage of a 2020 West European BEV market doubling in volume over previous year levels, thanks to stricter European Union CO2 fleet emission targets inflating the market, Tesla was more of a spectator as the BEV annual regional market for new zero-emission passenger cars zoomed to 728,000, from 354,000 during the previous year. This was reflected in the BEV penetration level from new passenger car registrations increasing from 2.5 per cent in 2019 to 6.7 per cent in 2020 as a battered West European total new car market, in damage limitation mode, thanks to the COVID pandemic, shrunk to just 10.8 million units (Western Europe typically accounts for around 14 million new cars in an average year).

However Tesla wasn't the benefactor of this electrified growth locomotive, resulting in its market leading share of Western Europe's BEV market evaporating almost overnight... but it could have been worse

Meanwhile, while more traditional OEMs rushed to register enough BEVs to lower their fleet average CO2 levels in 2020, and avoid crippling fines being issued in Brussels for non-compliance, Tesla's share of the BEV market was evaporating.

Soaking up just 13.2 per cent share of the pure electric market by the close of play last year (2020), according to Schmidt Automotive Research's monthly European Electric Car Report data, things could have been even worse.

With fewer electric cars having to be registered last year in order to meet individual CO2 targets, due to the depressed total passenger car market, Tesla's market share wounds could have been even roarer.

While the Tex-Californian manufacturer's West European volumes remained relatively steady with 96,300 units (-12.2% y/y) in 2020, taking into account the total car market fell by over 20 per cent – due to the pandemic – Tesla's share of the BEV only market was on a downward spiral falling from 31 per cent in 2019 to just 13.2 per cent last year.

It was also limited partially by the number of units it could ship to Europe and being swamped by competitor models. Tesla returns

However, this year's third quarter marked a key turning point with units from the Chinese facility being made available to Europe, resulting in a record delivery quarter for Tesla in the region.

Record quarter for Tesla in Western Europe

Tesla's third-quarter West European new deliveries consequently rose to 45,900, or 10,000 units higher than its previous quarterly record, resulting in its Q3 share of the West European BEV market rising to 15.2 per cent over a recent low of just 10.5 per cent in last year's final quarter.

Official Austrian data shows that 99.5% of all the new Tesla models entering the roads of the alpine-lined nation came from Chinese production lines, with just four of the total 757 new units in September shipped from the US.

Chinese losses – European gains

European volumes were helped by Tesla's reported misfortune in China during this year's opening half – although momentum appears to be building again – allowing for added European export capacity, while the delayed German site remains a work in progress for now.

Tesla now accounts for more than 1 per cent of the total West European passenger car market

In terms of the total West European passenger car market penetration across all drivetrains, Tesla has now comfortably broken through the 1 per cent market share barrier on a 12-month rolling basis (1.3%) and during the opening 9-months (1.4%) of this year. For full-year 2021 the European Electric Car Report is forecasting Tesla will account for 1.5 per cent share of an 11.1 million total market.

An equivalent share of the market in 2020 would have comfortably put Tesla in the same realms as Jaguar Land Rover, MINI or Mazda.

Tesla surpasses Fiat in September

In September alone, Tesla's market share of the total 18 market West European region reached a new monthly high of 3.8 per cent, not too dissimilar to what Ford of Europe (4.3%), Fiat (3.7%) or Opel/Vauxhall (4.3%) achieved, according to latest Acea data.

Tesla within 1 per cent market share of both Mercedes and Audi across Western Europe in September In the same month Tesla (33,900) was within 6,000 units of equalling Mercedes – which saw its volumes (39,471) halved (-51% y/y) over the same month last year. In terms of market share during September, just 0.6 per cent market share points separated them, and a similar difference to Audi.

During the opening three quarters German premiums remain out of sight though

BMW brand's West European third quarter volumes remained a healthy distance ahead of Tesla (45,900) with 146,074 units. Meanwhile Mercedes achieved 123,338 new volumes between July and September, just behind Audi with 128,506 units during the same period.

Tesla looms large in Volvo Cars' European rearview mirror

However, the 1.9 per cent total West European market share Tesla soaked up during this year's third quarter saw Tesla within just 0.1 percentage point of equalling Volvo Cars.

In terms of volumes, during the same period that gap translated to no more than 2,000 units across the same region between July and September.

However, due to the Geely-owned manufacturer's reliance on Scandinavia, that essentially shuts down for 4-weeks over the summer period, the Sino-Scandinavian brand's Q3 data should be taken with some caution.

Tesla delivers twice as many new vehicles as Volvo across Western Europe in September

In terms of September alone, Tesla's West European volumes (33,900) doubled that of Volvo's (16,793) according to Acea and European Electric Car Report data, although Volvo said its disappointing September volume was down related to a shortage of components likely related to COVID shutdowns and semiconductor shortages which can be reflect across most OEMs, sentiment that was more or less shared between all manufacturers.

Tesla's monthly data should be used with caution however

The US manufacturer sees the majority of its volumes delivered in the final month of each quarter as part of its delivery schedule.

Tesla approaches 0.5 million cumulative volume across the region

However Tesla's slow rise over a quarterly basis should certainly be seen as a trend, as its EVs slowly become ubiquitous on many European roads.

Over 420,000 Tesla's have been registered across the 18 market region since the Elon Musk led company entered the European market one decade ago according to historical European Electric Car Report data.

Tesla is expected to break through the half a million unit mark during next year's first quarter. This appears to be the point where Tesla may well make the leap from a star of the electric car world to a serious member of Europe's volume car fraternity, regardless of drivetrain.

The European Electric Car Flash Report which is published on a monthly basis covers the entire West European region in a detailed data-driven manner.


May also interest you: Future outlook: Semiconductor crisis accelerates the EV transition... BEVs are now expected to soak up 10.2% (1.132M units) of the total market while with PHEVs added to the equation – a route mostly exploited by premium OEMs click here for the story


*Western Europe 18 Markets: EU Member States prior to the 2004 enlargement plus EFTA markets Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, plus UK


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