electric continues to lose market share in Europe

Electricity is starting to struggle more and more on the European market. While registrations of electric cars have increased, their market share is crumbling. Growth in sales of electric cars slowed down in February in the European Union, according to figures published by the Manufacturers' Association (ACEA) this Thursday.

In detail, registrations of electric cars increased in volume in February 2024 by 106,187 units, an increase of 9% over one year. And this, like the entire market, which accounts for 883,608 units, or +10.1%, compared to February 2023. But after two years of strong growth, electrics saw their market share stagnate at 12% in February, against 14.6% over the whole of 2023, for the benefit of hybrid cars.

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Hybrids win the jackpot

Indeed, more dynamic than electric cars, hybrid cars accounted for the bulk of sales growth in most countries with 255,511 units sold, i.e. +24.7% over one year. Hybrids now represent 28.9% of the market and are increasingly close behind gasoline cars and their 35.5% market share (313,821 units, +6.1%).

While the sale of thermal engine cars will be banned in Europe in 2035, all manufacturers have increased their offering of hybrid and electric cars. But hybrids remain for the moment more accessible than electric ones, and more versatile. For their part, diesel cars therefore continue their decline to 113,891 units, or -5.1%, despite a slight rebound in Germany. They thus represent 12.9% of the market.

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Electricity sees its aid lowered

Electricity is losing market share due in particular to a sharp decline in sales in Germany (-15.4%), the main European market. However, purchasing aid was suddenly abolished at the end of 2023. Olaf Scholz's government decided to stop its aid program almost overnight due to budgetary constraints.

Penalizing for the automotive sector in the midst of an electric transition, this slowdown in the battery car segment adds to the lack of dynamism in the entire sector, since sales and production figures are lower than the level before the pandemic. of Covid-19 and should remain so in 2024.

Electrics also remain weak in other major markets, such as Spain or Italy, but they continued to progress in Belgium, the Netherlands and even France. The latter was notably able to benefit from social leasing. However, this system allowing the less well-off to access an electric car for 100 euros per month, was suspended at the beginning of February after being a victim of its success. The government had, in fact, initially mentioned a quota of 20,000 to 25,000 cars for 2024. The operation is therefore supposed to restart at the end of 2024 for the year 2025.

The government has also cut back on other purchasing aids. The ecological bonus has thus been reduced by 1,000 euros for the wealthiest households. In addition, the scrappage bonus has been withdrawn for low-polluting hybrid and thermal vehicles. Concerning companies, the elimination of the purchase bonus also worries the electric car ecosystem, warned the National Association for the Development of Electric Mobility (Avere) in February.

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China and the United States conquering electricity

Internationally, the trends regarding electricity are quite different. In China, for example, some 600,000 fully electric vehicles were sold this year in January and February, in terms of retail sales. This type of model is once again showing strong growth in the huge Chinese market (+18.2% in January-February year-on-year). Some 459,000 hybrid models were also sold in January and February (+74.9% year-on-year), according to the China Federation of Individual Car Manufacturers (CPCA).

Dozens of innovative local brands have emerged in recent years in China, the world's largest automobile market. They compete with foreign manufacturers who often struggle to adapt, with the notable exception of Tesla. The European Union, which is worried for its manufacturers about the strong growth of Chinese brands in its electric market, opened an investigation in September into suspicions of unfair competition.

Across the Atlantic, to strengthen the electricity market, the United States did not rely on purchasing aid to strengthen demand, but rather played on supply. Thus, the American government announced on Wednesday that it had finalized new standards on polluting emissions from automobiles, the strictest ever adopted, with the aim of accelerating the transition to electric cars.

Concretely, it will be up to manufacturers to choose which technologies they adopt to reduce their emissions. They will be able to improve the efficiency of gasoline car engines, but above all determine their share of zero-emission (electric) or low-emission (plug-in hybrid) vehicles.

Manufacturers continue to progress in Europe

All engines combined, the new car market in Europe grew by 5.4% in Germany, 13% in France, 12.8% in Italy and 9.9% in Spain.

On the manufacturer side, the Stellantis group is primarily benefiting from this increase with 172,268 cars sold (+12% and 19.5% market share), in particular thanks to a rebound in its Citroën brand. The European leader Volkswagen also shows progress compared to the low comparison base of February 2023, with 25.9% market share (228,886 units, +9.8%). The Renault group saw its market share decline to 10.4% (91,722 units, +5.8%). The Toyota group, for its part, shows clear progress (+16.8%) and is tied with Hyundai-Kia (+2.3%), at 7.8% market share.

(With AFP)