German carmakers outpace Tesla with electrified vehicle surge

BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen tripled their sales of electrified vehicles to almost 600,000 last year, the companies said, outpacing Tesla in Europe as they raced to meet new CO2 reduction targets.

Of the 5.3m cars delivered by the VW brand last year, 212,000 were either solely battery-powered, or hybrids, representing a 158 per cent increase on 2019.

Of those, 159,000 were sold in Europe, where carmakers faced the threat of hundreds of millions of euros in fines from Brussels if they failed to bring down fleet-wide emissions.

The VW marque alone sold 117,000 purely electric vehicles on the continent, while Tesla’s deliveries to the region totalled 96,000 in 2020, according to data compiled by auto analyst Matthias Schmidt.

BMW Group, which owns the Mini and Rolls-Royce brands, said that of the 2.3m cars it sold worldwide in 2020, almost 193,000 were electrified, an increase of almost 32 per cent on 2019.

In Europe, BMW’s battery-powered or hybrid vehicles accounted for 15 per cent of total sales, helping the Munich-based company reach its EU-mandated targets for the year.

Rival Daimler said last week that it had also achieved its CO2 goals, as it more than tripled sales of Mercedes electric and hybrid cars, which accounted for 160,000 of its 2.2m sales in 2020. The company also sold 27,000 electric Smart cars in the period.

Volkswagen Group, whose brands include Audi, Porsche and Seat, has yet to confirm if it fell short of EU targets, but executives said last month that the company was close to compliance, thanks in part to a late surge in sales of its flagship electric car, the ID.3.

The model, which only came on the market in September after software glitches caused significant delays to production, was VW’s most popular emissions-free car, with 56,500 units sold in 2020.

“2020 was a turning point for Volkswagen and marked a breakthrough in electric mobility,” said Ralf Brandstätter, chief executive of the VW marque.

Sales of electric cars in Germany were helped by Berlin’s decision in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis to double subsidies for the purchase of emissions-free vehicles, with customers able to get up to €9,000 off the retail price.

In December, for the first time, the market share of electric and hybrid cars in the country outpaced that of diesel engines, according to data from the Federal Motor Transport Authority.

Germans bought twice as many electrified cars as the next largest European market, France, according to Mr Schmidt, accounting for every fourth plug-in hybrid sold in western Europe.

“The German government, adding an extra turbo boost to domestic electric vehicle demand, up until now appears to have done the trick,” the Berlin-based analyst said, adding that leasing prices for plug-in hybrids had also hit record-low levels.

Overall, worldwide sales at VW brand fell 15 per cent in 2020, and more than 23 per cent in western Europe. Mercedes and BMW sales fell more than 7 per cent in the pandemic-ridden year.

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