While the Tesla Model 3 comfortably wins the electric vehicle sales competition in many European countries in the first quarter of 2021, it was not accomplished without a fight. The cumulative ID.3 and ID.4 sales in Denmark makes Volkswagen the clear EV brand winner in the country this first quarter of the year. This is fantastic, but not for the reasons you might think, like one brand bashing the other. No, it means competition is heating up in the EV space, and it better result in more EV winners than one.
Ok, so facts are that Tesla is the world leader in EV manufacturing by quantity, and that lead is getting ever more solid. Looking at the rate Tesla is building out manufacturing worldwide, it’s crazy. But does that mean the average consumers in a country like Denmark all want a Tesla? Not at all. From where I see it, the vast majority of Tesla buyers in this country are a somewhat tech savvy bunch who do not scare off easily by weird interiors with no buttons and knobs.
However, there is a large group of people that I see amongst colleagues, friends, family, and neighbors who are longing for something that does not scare them by being too different or too expensive, and guess what does not scare them? The Nissan Leaf? No, it’s trying too much. The Renault Zoe? No, too small. The BMW i3? Not really, these people do not want to get noticed, and the nostrils on the new i4 won’t help. It’s Volkswagen that nails this segment; it’s in the name.
I told you back in 2019 when I saw the ID.3 in Frankfurt at the IAA motorshow that this model would become very popular, which it did. Little did I anticipate, however, that the ID.4 would be even more popular, which I got confirmed when I saw the it on the street this week packed with a happy bunch of people, who were in some strange way happy to not be seen in a Tesla. It’s just a VW. It’s just a family car. They love it!
I have no doubt though that the biggest challenge VW will be facing shortly is production constraint. The EV market is exploding. A recent survey on the Danish YouTube channel Biler.tv showed that 38% of Danes are considering a pure electric for their next car, and only 15% think it will be any kind of hybrid. In Norway, the percentage of pure battery electric cars sold is now at 56% (85% including plugin hybrids). Norway is like a time machine showing us the endgame!
From a recent post on The Association Of Danish Motorists FDM website, Mads Rørvig CEO of Danish Car Importers notes: “The green conversion of the passenger car fleet in Denmark is going surprisingly fast. The new car taxes provide a clear incentive to choose a rechargeable car.” He is referring to the impossibly complicated tax regime that Denmark is suffering under, which luckily is now more in favor of electric vehicles, but weirdly enough now also makes it lucrative to import Teslas from Germany! Insane…
Anyway, back to the filthy scene in the photo above, because now it is a question of streamlining the image as an EV manufacturer. Tesla is not alone in making cool cars anymore, and by cool I don’t just mean futuristic, I mean plain cool. A Porsche Taycan ripped away from me the other day in a manner that left me baffled. That car is so fast and so awesome I got the chills, but I don’t think it’s futuristic like a Tesla, it’s just goddam cool!
The Tesla models have their sleek futuristic style, and they have the one thing that beats the rest (not counting the yet to be materialized full self-driving feature): The Supercharger network. I mean, it just works, and any range anxiety evaporates as soon as you enter the Tesla ecosystem. And if the rumors about opening it up to all EV owners is true, it is a Trojan horse that will make Tesla billions. But, if you’re met with filth like in the photo, that glory fades. It is in the interest of all EV manufacturers and consumers to get our act together and make sure the future of transportation stays appealing all round as opposed to the polluting fossil alternative. It’s what people see and experience in the EV space moving forward that will guide them towards their next car investment, provided that their brand of choice is actually being produced in sufficient numbers.
The great new commercials from Volkswagen illustrate this very clearly with statements like “Before, we couldn’t take in the sweet sounds of nature.” And this is where I begin to think Volkswagen might have a chance to not go bankrupt in this rapidly accelerating transition to electric vehicles. All-in is the only option now. Not all legacy automakers truly embrace this yet. Get ready for myriad mergers and bankruptcies the rest of this decade. The sudden growth in public awareness of electrification is actually surprising to me.
Remember when the iPhone shocked the world with its sleek design and novel user interface? How long did it take for the “oh no, I could never get used to a touchscreen” bickering to marginalize? One year? Two years? It’s been 14 years and now youngsters simply do not understand what they are looking at if you show them a cell phone with buttons. It’s a game of courting the consumer now, and for Tesla too. Even though Tesla has the majority of the market and probably will have forever, it has to maintain the image of the best possible future. Oddly enough, Tesla Energy could end up being so huge that the vehicle manufacturing division ends up being a niche business. Heck, the solving-vision-AI software suite alone could marginalize all revenue from any hardware Tesla produces, except perhaps batteries.
In any case, cars like the VW ID series will sell in huge numbers and Volkswagen will most likely be production constrained for some time all the while they fight lower margins and an enormous pile of stranded manufacturing assets from the ICE-age. I hope they make it, along with the many others, not ruling out the Chinese newcomers. We need the diversity. I am the happy owner of a Model 3, but the thought of only Tesla robotaxis everywhere would be kind of boring.
Ok, so to recap: One in four new cars in Denmark can now be charged. For the first time since the arrival of Tesla Model 3 in Denmark two years ago, Tesla is not the largest electric car brand in the country. Sure, the numbers may change in any direction going forward. Model 3 has had a short decline in deliveries earlier in the year due to tax changes, but when Giga Berlin comes online, Tesla is bound to overwhelm with the Model Y. However, the ID.4 was only just launched in March and sales are surging, so you never know.
Below are some totals. Despite the rise of electric cars, it is still fossil fueled cars that dominate sales. According to the association of Danish Car Importers Q1 of 2021 ended with 43,898 new passenger cars sold, which is 10% less than in 2020.
Top 3 internal combustion engine vehicles:
- Peugeot 208: 1,624
- Nissan Qashqai: 1,531
- Ford Kuga: 1,478
Top 3 plug-in hybrids:
- Ford Kuga: 1,434
- Peugeot 3008: 629
- Volvo XC40: 414
Top 10 pure electric vehicles:
- Tesla Model 3: 573
- Volkswagen ID.4: 451
- Volkswagen ID.3: 257
- Kia e-Niro: 210
- Renault Zoe: 169
- Hyundai Kona: 156
- Seat Mii: 152
- Fiat 500: 104
- Nissan Leaf: 103
- Audi e-tron: 99
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