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The Street
The Street
Rob Lenihan

Volkswagen Threatens Tesla's Throne in Electric Vehicles

There's a bug in Elon Musk's rearview mirror.

Musk's company Tesla (TSLA) led the worldwide electric vehicle market in 2021 with a 14% share, according to the research firm Canalys, but Volkswagen  (VWAGY)  was right behind it.

Sales of the Model Y started in the major markets in 2021 and quickly overtook those of the Model 3 in Mainland China and the US. 

Tesla vehicle production is well established in Mainland China, Canalys said, and will begin in Europe in the first half 2022 as the company focuses on delivering existing models rather than launching new ones in 2022.

Chips and Covid

Volkswagen rolled into second with a 12% market share. The company, which makes the iconic Beetle, doubled its EV sales in 2021 compared with 2020 and led the market in Europe.

Nearly 60% of the Volkswagen EV sales were from the VW brand, with good support from Audi, Cupra, Porsche, SEAT and Skoda, thus giving it a presence in a range of EV segments.

While the Tesla Model 3 was the best-selling electric car in Europe in 2021,  Volkswagen was the leading manufacturer of electric vehicles, Canalys said.

Canalys estimated that 6.5 million electric vehicles, which includes fully electric and plug-in hybrid passenger cars, were sold worldwide in 2021, up 109% on 2020.

However, the total global car market grew just 4% in 2021 as it continued to struggle with Covid-19 restrictions and chip shortages, the firm said. EV sales represented 9% of all passenger car sales in 2021.

In December, Volkswagen said the global semiconductor shortage will continue through the first half of 2022 and perhaps beyond. 

SAIC, which includes SGMW, the combination of SAIC, GM and Wuling, came in third with an 11% share. 

The big success within the group is still the Wuling Hongguang Mini EV in Mainland China, where Canalys said it is "the runaway leader." EVs from Baojun, Maxus, MG and Roewe, all SAIC-owned brands, contributed to its success.

Sales of EVs in the U.S continue to lag those in Mainland China and Europe, with just 4% of new cars sold in the US in 2021 were EVs, Canalys said, noting that 3.2 million EVs were sold in 2021 in Mainland China, accounting for 15% of all new cars sold.

In addition. 2.3 million EVs were sold in Europe, accounting for 19% of new cars.

Pick-Up Trucks Will Boost US EV Market

Several new EVs were launched in 2021 and sales momentum and consumer interest are increasing, but Tesla continues to dominate EV sales in the U.S with an estimated share of just under 60%.

“The competition’s EV sales are nowhere near Tesla’s in the U.S since Model 3 shipments ramped up in 2018. Tesla even outsells many premium car brands in the overall market,” Chris Jones, VP and chief analyst at Canalys, said in a statement. 

Jones added that “pick-up trucks will give the US EV market a huge lift in 2022."

"Rivian was first to deliver at the end of 2021, while Ford and GM have had strong interest in the F-150 Lightning and GMC Hummer Pickup respectively," he said.

Warren Buffett -backed BYD  (BYDDF)  came in fourth with a share of 9% and a particularly strong second half of the year. The company's EV sales increased by over 200% in 2021 with more than a dozen models available in Mainland China, some with EV and PHEV versions.

BYD also expanded beyond Mainland China. It launched the first model based on its new e-platform 3.0 toward the end of 2021, with more new models on the platform to come in 2022.

Stellantis (STLA), Chrysler's parent company, was fifth with a 6% market share as electrified versions of popular compact cars in Europe were the key to its success with Peugeot, Opel/Vauxhall and Fiat vehicles all selling well.

Stellantis, which has pledged to go full battery electric by 2028, will produce four new EV platforms to use across vehicles from the 14 brands in the group. 

The company said in January that Chrysler, the nearly 100-year-old, venerated American car brand, was joining the electric vehicle market as it introduced the Chrysler Airflow Concept at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. 

BMW  (BMW)  held a 5% share in 2021, growing its electrified vehicle sales by 70%, but lost ground to its faster-growing competitors. 

Its best-selling EV in 2021 was the China-built BMW iX3, with China its biggest end-user market. The Mini Cooper SE was the second best-selling EV, ahead of the aging BMW i3.

Last month, BMW unveiled color-changing paint technology that can have drivers change the color of their car with the push of a button.

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