US car sales analysis 2019 – EV and PHEV

Sales of EVs and PHEVs in the US showed a decline of 9% in 2019 after a very slow second half of the year. Battery electric vehicle sales were up 3% to nearly 240,000 which is about 1.4% of the total US car market, up from 1.3% in 2018. Plug-in hybrid sales were down a harsh 31% to below 89,000 which is 0.5% of the total US car market, down from 0.7% in 2018. And while the PHEV market is very fragmented with 16 different brands offering 30 models of which none has a share of more than 10%, the EV market is clearly dominated by a single player: Tesla. More than 8 out of every 10 EVs sold in the US are from the Californian brand, with the second best selling brand, Chevrolet, holding just 6.8% of the market. Another interesting trend to see is that dedicated green vehicles appear to be much more popular than electrified versions of existing models. The top-6 best selling EVs which account for 94.4% of all EV sales in the US are EV-only models, while from the other models only the VW e-Golf and the Fiat 500e manage to get a take rate above 10% for the EV version. In the PHEV segment this trend is also quite clear, though slightly less pronounced. The two best sellers are dedicated green vehicles, the Prius Prime is the PHEV version of the regular Prius hybrid, of which the regular hybrid is the most popular, while the Honda Clarity PHEV is by far the most popular of the three available versions at a 92% take rate vs 6% for the BEV and 2% for the FCEV. And the Chevrolet Volt was the #3 best selling PHEV in 2018, before its demise was announced. And from the PHEV versions of regular models, only the BMW 530e, Porsche Panamera E and Volvo S90 T8 manage double digit take rates. Even the Hyundai Ioniq, available as a hybrid, PHEV and EV, is most popular as the hybrid (88%), with the PHEV (8%) and EV (4%) much less in demand.

Audi_e_tron-US-car-sales-statisticsBy far the best selling EV in the US is the Tesla Model 3 for the second year running. Thanks to a growth in deliveries of 14%, it sets a new annual sales record not only for the nameplate but for any electric vehilce at nearly 159,000 sales. This is almost 8 times as much as its nearest rival Tesla Model X, which is down 26%. The Model S sedan is cannibalized the most by the Model 3 with sales down 45% to drop from 3rd place to 4th meaning the podium is no longer 100% Tesla, as the Chevrolet Bolt EV leapfrogs the Model S despite a 9% drop in deliveries. The Nissan Leaf is down 16% on its 2018 tally, which was already less than half of the nameplate’s peak in 2014. We welcome the Audi e-tron to the ranking at #6, selling more than double of the Jaguar I-Pace. The Volkswagen e-Golf is up more than threefold to set a new annual sales record for the EV version of the German hatchback. Its take rate of 13% is also boosted by fast declining sales of the petrol versions of the Golf, which is due for a redesign in 2020. The popularity of the e-Golf this late in its life cycle bodes well for the upcoming dedicated EV VW ID.3.

Sister models Hyundai Kona Electric and Kia Niro EV arrive in the US with modest take rates, while the Hyundai Ioniq EV doubles its sales and take rate thanks to an update providing it with a longer range. The Smart Fortwo ED and Mercedes-Benz B-Class ED have been pulled from the US market, while the Fiat 500e will soon follow. We welcomed the Porsche Taycan in December 2019 with 130 sales in its first month.

In 2020 we welcome the Mini Cooper SE to the ranking as one of the most affordable EVs on the market, but with limited range only suitable for city driving. The Tesla Model Y crossover is guaranteed to cannibalize the Model 3, but to which degree? The Volkswagen ID.3 has already been mentioned above and should be a top-5 contender, even in the US where VW is not as popular as in Europe and China. BMW will launch the iX3 as the electric version of the existing X3, but as we’ve read above that may not be the best strategy in the US market. On the other hand, Mercedes-Benz has already announced its EQC crossover won’t make its Stateside until 2021. In the meantime Audi is enjoying its advantage over its German rivals with the e-tron Sportback, a coupe version of the existing electric SUV. The new Tesla Roadster is in the pipelines, Volvo is planning a US launch for the Polestar 2 EV sedan in 2020 as well as the XC40 electric crossover and of course the two most discussed upcoming EVs are the Ford Mustang Mach-E and Tesla’s Cybertruck, although the latter won’t be ready for deliveries in 2020. The same goes for the BMW i4 rival to the Tesla Model 3, while the Honda e may never reach US shores. The all-electric new Jaguar XJ is planned but we’re not sure if it will be launched in 2020 and the same can be said of the Nissan Ariya crossover EV.

US EV sales 2019

Electric Car Segment 2019 2018 Change %EV 2019 %EV 2018
1 Tesla Model 3 158.925 139.782 14% 100% 100%
2 Tesla Model X 19.225 26.100 -26% 100% 100%
3 Chevrolet Bolt EV 16.418 18.019 -9% 100% 100%
4 Tesla Model S 14.100 25.745 -45% 100% 100%
5 Nissan Leaf 12.365 14.715 -16% 100% 100%
6 Audi e-tron 5.369 0 New 100%
7 Volkswagen e-Golf 4.863 1.354 259% 13% 3%
8 Jaguar I-Pace 2.594 393 560% 100% 100%
9 Hyundai Kona Electric* 1.723 0 New 2%
10 Kia Niro EV* 1.166 0 New 5%
11 Honda Clarity BEV* 742 948 -22% 6% 5%
12 Hyundai Ioniq EV* 704 345 104% 4% 2%
13 Smart Fortwo ED 680 1.219 -44% 100% 96%
14 Fiat 500e* 615 2.250 -73% 19% 42%
15 Porsche Taycan 130 0 New 100%
16 Kia Soul EV* 87 1.134 -92% 0% 1%
17 Mercedes-Benz B250e 9 135 -93% 100% 100%
18 Ford Focus Electric* 0 560 -100% 0%
Segment total 239.715 232.699 3%


The seven best selling PHEVs in the US all lose volume compared to 2018. For the second year running the Toyota Prius Prime tops the charts despite a drop in deliveries of 14%. It sells more than double of its nearest rival Honda Clarity PHEV which is down 42%. The Ford Fusion Energy is down 7% which makes it the best performer in the top-7, and its take rate of 5% is stable on the year before. The BMW 530e is one of the most successful PHEV versions of regular cars, not only in the US with its take rate of 15% (down from 20% in 2018), but also in China (16.9% take rate) and Europe (15.8% take rate). The Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid is down 19%, while production of the Chevrolet Volt ended in 2019, just when it was surpassed by the Model 3 as the all-time top-selling plug-in vehicle in the US. BMW doesn’t publish how many of its i3s are bought with the optional range extender, so we’ll just classify it as a PHEV here. Its sales are down 21% in 2019, its fourth year of declines after peaking above 11,000 sales in its first full year of sales 2015. The Kia Niro PHEV is the first model in the ranking to improve its sales, as it improves its take rate to 16%. That means the EV and PHEV versions of the Niro now account for 21% of the model’s sales, with the other 79% of buyers preferring the hybrid. The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV has been Europe’s best selling plug-in hybrid since its launch with take rates as high as 74%, it’s having a more difficult time in the US with sales down 33% in 2019 as the PHEV version accounts for just 7% of the Outlander’s total sales. Mercedes-Benz has culled its PHEV line-up for now, leaving it with a single model: the GLC 350e which jumps to 10th place in the ranking, but still just 3% of GLC buyers opt for the version with a plug. That’s even less for the Subaru Crosstrek, while the Porsche Panamera E-Hybrid accounts for 31% of the model’s sales in the US. Its SUV sibling Cayenne has a take rate of 12%, while its rivals Mercedes-Benz GLE and BMW X5 are in a model changeover but will return with plug-in hybrids in 2020. At Volvo, 5% of its SUVs sold are Twin Engine versions, with the XC90 now the brand’s best selling plug-in model ahead of the XC60, while the S90 sedan triples its take rate to 18% despite almost flat sales (+4%) as sales of the ICE version are plumetting.

2020 is expected to be the breakthrough year for PHEVs in Europe with a flood of new models coming to market as emissions targets are difficult to be met without them, and manufacturers risking heavy fines if they don’t. In the US, there’s unfortunately much less pressure from legislators to push plug-in hybrids onto the market. Still, there are a number of new players announced for 2020: Audi plans to launch the A8 TFSI e and Q5 TFSI e, the latter of which is EPA rated at 65 MPGe and will compete with BMW’s X3 xDrive30e. The larger BMW X5 xDrive45e will get the same 6-cylinder powertrain that the 745e already received. Ford will take a shot at the top spot with the PHEV version of the all-new Escape, the larger Explorer and that model’s twin Lincoln Aviator will get plug-in versions and Mercedes-Benz will re-introduce the C350e and E350e with the same powertrain as the GLC. The Range Rover and Range Rover Sport PHEV are expected to make it Stateside in 2020 and Volvo will expand its plug-in hybrid line-up with the V60 T8 PHEV

US PHEV sales 2019

Plug-in hybrid Segment 2019 2018 Change %PHEV 2019 %PHEV 2018
1 Toyota Prius Prime* 23.630 27.595 -14% 34% 32%
2 Honda Clarity PHEV* 10.728 18.602 -42% 92% 92%
3 Ford Fusion Energi* 7.524 8.074 -7% 5% 5%
4 BMW 530e* 5.862 8.664 -32% 15% 20%
5 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid* 5.723 7.062 -19% 6% 6%
6 Chevrolet Volt 4.910 18.306 -73% 100% 100%
7 BMW i3 (BEV + REx) 4.854 6.117 -21% 100% 100%
8 Kia Niro PHEV* 3.881 3.389 15% 16% 12%
9 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV 2.810 4.166 -33% 7% 10%
10 Mercedes-Benz GLC 350e* 2.459 567 334% 3% 1%
11 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid* 2.359 0 New 2%
12 Porsche Panamera E-Hybrid* 2.060 2.036 1% 31% 25%
13 Volvo XC90 T8 PHEV* 1.672 1.387 21% 5% 4%
14 Hyundai Ioniq PHEV* 1.621 1.590 2% 8% 11%
15 Volvo XC60 PHEV* 1.603 2.267 -29% 5% 7%
16 Porsche Cayenne S-E* 1.140 1.022 12% 6% 10%
17 BMW i8 1.102 772 43% 100% 100%
18 Mini Countryman SE PHEV* 724 1.564 -54% 5% 9%
19 Mercedes-Benz C350e* 613 1.721 -64% 1% 3%
20 Hyundai Sonata PHEV* 463 460 1% 1% 0%
21 Volvo S90 T8 PHEV* 456 437 4% 18% 6%
22 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron* 437 2.597 -83% 4% 14%
23 Mercedes-Benz GLE 550e* 436 966 -55% 1% 2%
24 BMW 330e* 419 2.600 -84% 1% 6%
25 Kia Optima PHEV* 335 965 -65% 0% 1%
26 BMW 740e/745e* 187 339 -45% 2% 4%
27 BMW X5 xDrive 40e* 167 4.434 -96% 0% 10%
28 Mercedes-Benz S550e/S560e* 56 96 -42% 0% 1%
29 Cadillac CT6 PHEV* 24 231 -90% 0% 2%
30 Ford C-Max Energi* 0 582 -100% 9%
Segment total 88.255 128.608 -31%

Sources: Manufacturers, CarSalesBase estimates(*)


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