Sales of battery-electric vehicles more than doubled during the first half of 2021, data tracking service Experian reports, on top of an 11% increase for all of the pandemic-plagued 2020.
California upstart Tesla continues to dominate the market, according to Experian, reporting record deliveries for each of the first two quarters. But Tesla’s grip on the U.S. EV market could be loosening, at least if the last 18 months are any indication.
The automaker entered 2020 with an 80% share of the market, the remaining 20% carved up between a mix of manufacturers peddling an assortment of short-, medium- and long-range options. But that begin to slip in the final quarter last year as a wave of new products came to market, including the new Ford Mustang Mach-E and Volkswagen ID.4. With even more alternatives set to debut between now and the end of 2022, Tesla will feel even more pressure, industry analysts warn.
For all of 2020, Tesla managed to keep its share relatively flat, ending the year with 79% of the American EV market. But the final quarter saw that share slip to around 72% and, it slid even further, to 66% for the first half of 2021.
Tesla’s competition posts solid results
Industry analysts like IHS Markit’s Stephanie Brinley believe a decline is inevitable, especially with the overall EV market finally gaining traction. Experian tallied up registration data showing that 214,111 new battery-electric vehicles went into service between Jan. 1 and June 30 of this year. For the same period in 2020, the total was 98,351, so this marked a 117% increase on top of the 11% gain for all of 2020 – which was itself impressive considering the sharp slump in the overall U.S. automotive market due to the pandemic.
Tesla has clearly not stood still. It delivered a record 201,250 vehicles during the second quarter of this year and produced even more. That followed record production and deliveries during Q1. But it can’t keep up with the overall pace of the market, especially with so many new competitors taking aim at the king-of-the-hill.
GM doubled its long-range line-up by adding the Chevrolet Bolt EUV on top of the original Bolt EV model. That helped it capture a still-distant 9.6% of the market. Ford, meanwhile, ended the half with a 5.2% share, a figure that appears to be growing fast during the current quarter thanks to the Mustang Mach-E.
The electric pony car has received widespread kudos since it debuted, Car & Driver magazine naming the Mach-E its EV of the Year. “If an automaker wanted to convert people from EV skeptics to EV evangelists, it’s hard to imagine a better vehicle for the job than the Ford Mustang Mach-E,” the magazine wrote.
More electric vehicles on the way
Ford is getting set to roll out a procession of new BEVs, as is Chevy parent General Motors. Ford’s list includes the F-150 Lightning pickup set to go into production next June. With more than 120,000 advance reservations, Ford plans to double capacity at the special EV production facility it has set up at its big Rouge Assembly complex in Dearborn, Michigan.
As for GM, it will debut the new GMC Hummer pickup before year-end, though initial versions will be high-priced and low volume. GM follows with an assortment of luxury and mainstream vehicles, starting with next year’s introduction of the Cadillac Lyriq.
VW is preparing to launch production of its ID.4 model in Tennessee, the BEV currently imported from Europe. The automaker also said recently that it will expand the range of electric models to follow based on growing U.S. demand — and the high targets set by the Biden administration.
The president recently announced a call for EVs to generate 50% of U.S. new vehicle sales by 2030, though that term includes both plug-in hybrids and pure battery-electric models.
There are plenty of other manufacturers seeing the electric light. Volvo and its spinoff Polestar have laid out growing sales aspirations — and new model lines. Hyundai Motor Group is readying a wave of models, including the likes of the Hyundai Ioniq 5, Kia EV6 and the Genesis GV60 unveiled last week.
An assortment of new players are getting ready to come to market, including Lucid, with its Air portfolio aimed at Tesla’s original Model S.
Even Toyota, a company traditionally fixated on hybrids and wary of BEVs, is finally getting in the game. “We’re not anti-EV,” Bob Carter, TMNA’s executive vice president of sales, said in June, as the bZ4X made its North American debut following a global preview at the Shanghai Auto Show two months earlier.
Tesla not shying away from sales battle
The math of an expanding EV market means that Tesla would have to run at a phenomenal pace to maintain market share. In fact, it isn’t going to cede its position without a fight. Along with current factories in California and Shanghai, and a plant soon to open in Europe, Tesla is readying its second U.S. facility in Texas.
While that will give it more production capacity for hot-selling offerings like the Models 3 and Y, it also highlights the increasing challenges Tesla faces.
The company currently offers four retail lines, and it has promised to launch still more. But it has been vague about their timing. Significantly, Tesla recently indicated it won’t have the Cybertruck ready until sometime in 2022 — and a number of analysts now wonder if it won’t be pushed back until 2023.
Cybertruck could be the spark Tesla needs, at least if it can convert to actual sales the reported 1.2 million advance reservations one website tracking the company claims are in hand. That number has drawn plenty of skepticism. And with a wide number of electric pickup alternatives coming, Cybertruck could face a real challenge. Even the normally effusive CEO Elon Musk has warned it could prove to be a “flop.”
The simple reality is that Tesla market share has to dip if the EV market is to grow at a pace needed to meet the Biden goal. Even with the big burst in demand, pure electric models accounted for a mere 2.5% of the overall U.S. motor vehicle market during the first half of 2021. They have a long way to go … and still-skeptical buyers will need a lot more options to choose from, analysts contend, to keep up the pace set so far this year.