Fully electric vehicles are a transportation revolution moving full steam ahead. Whether it’s a Volkswagen ID.3, Tesla Model 3 or even electric pickups, the world loves giving EVs attention (if not sales). However, while electric cars steal the headlines and hearts, plug-in hybrids are the cars helping automakers in Europe with few EV offerings like Mercedes-Benz to lower CO2 emissions and avoid fines.
It would appear that demand for fully electric vehicles in Europe is lower than manufacturer expectations. It can be argued that COVID-19 is part of the reason for slow luxury EV demand, as global car sales in general struggled through the pandemic. Luxury marques like Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, and Audi also don’t have much in the form of EV availability to prospective buyers. But Mercedes has an ace up its sleeve with plug-in hybrids. From Automotive News Europe:
Mercedes-Benz lowered its German fleet CO2 emissions by 10 per cent through September because of its aggressive rollout of plug-in hybrids.
In Germany alone Mercedes registered more than 25,000 plug-in hybrids through September. That’s a more than sevenfold increase over the same period last year. This made Mercedes the top-seller of plug-in hybrids in Germany, beating both BMW and Audi by 10,000 units each, according to government figures.
Because of the strong demand for plug-in hybrids, Mercedes recently said for the first time it should be able to meet its overall EU CO2 reduction target this year.
So it seems that while buyers may not be interested in the scant and expensive full electric offerings by these automakers, they want the hybrids. EV buyers in Europe are finding themselves drawn in by the cheaper Renault Zoe and Tesla Model 3.
Hybrid sales may save Mercedes-Benz from incurring European Union fines for failing to meet mandated CO2 goals. Jaguar Land Rover is facing the same fines, though it may not be as lucky. From AN Europe:
A lack of enough plug-in hybrids, meanwhile, has caused Jaguar Land Rover to set aside 90 million pounds ($162 million) to pay a likely EU fine for failing to meet its mandated CO2 goal.
JLR’s strategy was to launch more plug-in hybrid versions of its Land Rover, Range Rover and Jaguar SUV models, but that plan had to be scrapped after the automaker was forced to halt sales of the plug-in hybrid versions of two of its top-selling vehicles, the Range Rover Evoque and the Land Rover Discovery Sport, due to a discrepancy over their emissions figures.
Tepid European sales of the I-Pace SUV aren’t helping JLR’s case, which is sad as it seems to be a genuinely cool car.
Meanwhile, Audi managed to move 19,853 E-Trons in Europe through September. Compare that with the 7,351 Mercedes EQC sold and the 6,263 I-Pace models in the same region. All three marques are racing to increase sales of plug-in hybrids to bridge the gap, Inside EVs reports.
Honestly, I’m not too surprised by this news. It appears to me that the other automakers are struggling to capture the lightning in a bottle that Tesla has. Clearly, while buyers may be reluctant to buy the EVs, at least until charging is more widely available, hybrids remain popular.
There is some hope on the horizon. Mercedes-Benz plans to have 10 electric models based on a modular platform, including a Smart crossover. If Mercedes is able to bring these models down on price, it may be able to capture some of the market.
Funny, this isn’t the first time Smart has tried a crossover, but that’s a story for another day.