The automotive industry is slowly regaining momentum after a pandemic-related slump marked by demand and supply bottlenecks, with electric passenger cars in particular experiencing a veritable boom. According to the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA), 66.2 million new vehicles were registered worldwide in 2022, a significant portion of which boosted Q4 sales.
However, according to the industry association’s figures, this still failed to reach pre-pandemic levels. In 2019, the number of newly registered cars reached 74.9 million, with European registrations actually dropping by 10.4 per cent to 12.8 million in 2022. In addition to the Ukraine war, semiconductor supply bottlenecks continue to impact the industry here. Similarly, North America saw a decline of 8.7 per cent, while the number of new registrations in Asia increased by 7.7 per cent.
Globally, demand for EVs continued to rise. Reasons for this, in addition to increased awareness of climate change and sustainability, likely include tax incentives and preferential treatment for electrically powered vehicles. According to ACEA, 20 EU countries are currently promoting the purchase of an EV with special incentives, while most other countries at least offer tax breaks.
This is also reflected in the market shares. The share of petrol-powered passenger cars in new registrations in Europe continuously declined from 55.6 per cent in 2018 to 36.4 per cent in 2022. In turn, the share of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) increased to 12.1 per cent, with the Scandinavian countries leading the way: an impressive 14.9 per cent of all cars in Norway are BEVs.
Electric car pioneer Tesla gains ground – Volkswagen catching up to close second
The main beneficiary of the EV boom is industry pioneer Tesla. The US electric car manufacturer delivered around 466,000 vehicles in Q2 of this year between April and June, almost twice as many as in the same period last year. Tesla also benefited from the US government’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) subsidy program. However, the company is currently willing to sacrifice its profit margins, cutting prices in order to defend its market share against growing competition from China and Europe.
Volkswagen, meanwhile, has caught up significantly, staying close on the US market leader’s heels. In VW’s German home market, Tesla beat the Wolfsburg-based manufacturer to the top spot in 2022, but its lead has recently shrunk considerably. Across Europe, VW was clearly ahead in May with a market share of 19.6 per cent, followed by the French group Stellantis (13.9 per cent) and Tesla (12.6 per cent). In two years at the latest, Volkswagen wants to sales from electric cars to equal or surpass those from combustion engines. By 2025, the group is aiming for margin parity between the two drive types, finance chief Arno Antlitz said in May.
While EVs are so far mainly found in higher-priced segments, the next battle for market share is already looming in the small car segment. VW kicked off this battle in March by unveiling a model called the ID.2 All. The electric small car is to be launched in 2025, with an expected entry-level price of EUR 25,000.
World’s largest car market China is hotly contested
China, the world’s largest sales market, continues to be hotly contested among EV manufacturers. In May, one in three vehicles sold in the country was already battery-powered, according to data from the Chinese manufacturers’ association CPCA. The market is currently dominated by local manufacturers; foreign brands are having a hard time. Tesla’s attempts to gain ground with price cuts have so far been countered with corresponding countermeasures by the local market leaders. The Chinese government now wants to further boost demand for electric cars and other environmentally friendly vehicles with subsidies worth billions. To this end, a CNY 520bn package (or equivalent to EUR 66bn) was recently approved.
EV boom increasing focus on battery manufacturers and raw materials
With the EV boom, manufacturers of the necessary batteries and operators of charging stations are also gaining importance. Japanese multinational conglomerate Panasonic plans to ramp up production of batteries at its Nevada factory, which is jointly operated with Tesla, and increase production by 10 per cent. Many car manufacturers are also investing heavily in this area. French-German battery cell manufacturer ACC, a joint venture between Stellantis and TotalEnergies, recently opened its first major plant in northern France to produce batteries for electric vehicles. VW has announced investments of around €4.8 billion in a battery cell factory in Canada.
The EU also wants to massively promote battery production to become less dependent on imports from China and other countries. In June, the European Court of Auditors warned that the 2035 target for the phase-out of cars with internal combustion engine is unlikely to be reached without a much faster expansion of battery production. According to an evaluation by the consulting firm Alix Partners, however, over 98 per cent of battery cells sold in Europe are still produced by Asian companies.
This is also associated with global competition for raw materials critical to the production of batteries. Because of the EV boom, for example, lithium, an essential raw material for current batteries, is now one of the most sought-after metals in the world. According to experts, demand could soon exceed supply. Many companies are therefore already investing in joint ventures and acquisitions to secure the supply of important raw materials for batteries: VW and Stellantis recently supported the purchase of two mines for battery raw materials in Brazil by the financial company ACG, securing access to urgently needed raw materials.
Profit from the e-car boom with ERSTE GREEN INVEST
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