France electric vehicle sales: end July 2012

The Citroen C-ZERO

Citroën’s fantastic promotion, news of which we quickly shared with our french blog readers, helped to increase sales volumes of electric vehicles in July and to relaunch the overall EV market.

July 2012: thank you Citroën ;-)

While Bolloré isn’t adding any new Bluecars to its Autolib fleet, sales of electric vehicles to private owners attained an excellent level in July 2012 (594 registrations), driven primarily by Citroën’s C-Zero, which accounted for 82.8% of the market (492 units registered). The 99 euro/month leasing promotion for the Citroën C-Zero, which was initially limited to 200 vehicles, was so successful that the manufacturer decided to increase the volumes available, in response to the high demand, and to not disappoint potential buyers. On the French version of our Automobile Propre blog, where we quickly shared the news about the promotion, your comments demonstrated the widespread interest generated by this exceptional offer.

The success of the C-Zero overshadowed a strong performance by the Peugeot iOn in July, with 54 new registrations for the month. Of course, compared to the overall market for private cars, with 148 966 registrations for the month of July, the number looks small. However, other models sold less: 19 registrations for the Mia, 11 for the Leaf, and 4 for the Fluence ZE.

France electric vehicle cumulated sales, end July 2012

The Bluecar still has the largest share of market (48%), but the C-Zero made a strong leap ahead, going from 5% share of market at the end of June, to 21% at the end of July.

This push ahead from Citroën drove the overall EV market ahead, leaving it at +181% versus the same period in 2011 if Bolloré Bluecar sales are included, and 46% ahead even if Bolloré Bluecar sales are excluded.

Sales for the “range extender” models on the market remain modest, with 12 Opel Ampera, 3 Fisker Karma and 2 Chevrolet Volt registrations in July.

Conclusion

If PSA, and specifically Citroën, made waves in July, it was at the cost of an unprecedented promotion. It is the price of buying an electric car that is the real obstacle to widespread adoption, and not autonomy or charging infrastructure.

At 99 euros/month for a C-Zero, we are certain that the manufacturer is not making much margin, especially as this vehicle is not manufactured by PSA but bought from Mitsubishi. While the promotion was wildly popular with buyers, it is certainly not possible to sustain and cannot continue to drive the market on a long-term basis.

The additional 2000 euro bonus announced by the government last month is not sufficient either to make up the gap between the sales price of electric vehicles, and the price that consumers are willing to pay.

Consumers seem much more willing to rent electric cars than to buy them, which helps to avoid the risk of a low remaining value for the car, a key consideration in the decision to purchase any car. It would be interesting to know the amount designated for lease versus purchase for Peugeot’s 199 euros/month leasing promotion for the iOn, which runs till the end of August 2012. The iOn is also available at a sales price of 10 900 euros during this promotional period.

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