Tesla is keeping the title of global leader in electric vehicle sales in April, despite suffering a sharp 75% drop in sales from March – twice the global fall in EV sales caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.
Sales figures published by José Pontes of EV Sales suggest around 15,000 Tesla vehicles (including 12,000 Model 3 sedans) were sold globally in April, down from 60,000 units sold in March (nearly 50,000 of which were Model 3s).
For the Model 3, it equates to an 80% drop in sales, perhaps explaining the urgency – ranging from daring local authorites to arrest him, and threats of moving Tesla HQ to Texas – with which Tesla CEO and co-founder Elon Musk wanted to reopen the company’s Fremont factory.
Despite the fall, which nearly doubled the global fall in EV sales for the month, Tesla retained its pole position in the market ahead of BMW, Volkswagen and China’s BYD. However, if Tesla is to achieve its goal to “comfortably exceed” more than 500,000 EV sales in 2020, it will need a rapid increase for the rest of the year. Its current total stands at 104,000.
The sales figures paint the story of a slowdown that has been seen across the auto market during the pandemic, where EV sales have only dropped by 30% compared to the wider market’s 45% drop for April.
Pontes notes that based on these figures, the outcome for EV sales for the remainder of the year could see a rise in market share, although this is by no means guaranteed.
“The future will depend much on the development of the pandemic, but if the worst is over (a big IF), then we should be optimistic that plugins will weather the upcoming economic crisis with greater ease than the overall market, with the plugin share growing in the remainder of the year,” he writes.
Volkswagen actually saw a rise in sales, thanks to strong sales in China, ground zero for the pandemic and first to lift restrictions both for civilians and business. No doubt this also fared well for China’s BYD, sales for which remained level, enabling the EV maker to retain fourth place.
On the models ladder, as noted the Tesla Model 3 sits on the throne, while the Renault Zoe and Nissan Leaf have also kept their positions in second and third place, highlighting the popularity of both electric hatch’s as standalone models.
An interesting trend was the jump up the ladder for Chinese models including the BYD Qin Pro EV, which jumped 4 positions to number six and the GAC Aion S, which shot up 5 spots to number 10.
Volkswagen’s e-Golf did well also, climbing another spot to number three – a fact which Pontes attributes to the stainless steel VW e-Golf’s success in China.
For plug-in hybrids, the BMW 530e/Le also did well, scoring a two-spot jump to number five.
As the pandemic continues to cast its shadow on lives and markets worldwide, what will the future hold for electric cars?
Given trends in recent times (in Australia for example, EV sales are on the rise from a low base while auto sales have slumped for 24 months now), it is thought that the improvement in air quality due to pandemic stay-at-home measures will encourage more people to consider switching to electric, although this will, as Pontes points out, depend on how the pandemic continues to develop as economies fall into recession.
For the short term, Pontes notes that we may see two newcomers in the Global Top 2020 for May, as Tesla Model Y sales gain momentum and if Nio’s ES6, currently trailing close behind the BMW 330e, also gains speed.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.