Broadening EV competition in California sees Tesla lose ground

A surge from German brands sees pack gaining market share

Broadening EV competition in California sees Tesla lose ground
Mercedes saw the fastest BEV growth in the state

Elon Musk's EV pure play Tesla saw its commanding share of the Californian EV market dip across 2023, according to new data from the California New Car Dealers Association (CNCDA), as German legacy players made up ground on the market leader.

Tesla saw its share slip to 60.5pc in 2023, down from capturing 71pc of BEV sales in California in 2022 and 74.6pc in 2021, and in line with the market share pressure it has faced across the US a whole.

The biggest rises in market share were from German legacy players Volkswagen (VW), which saw a 1.4 percentage point gain, BMW, with a 2.2 percentage point gain and Mercedes with a 2.8 percentage point gain.

Mercedes saw the most rapid year-on-year growth in BEV registrations, which were up 332pc, following the trend of its global BEV sales.

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Californian EV start-up Rivian was the only other automaker to raise its market share by more than a percentage point. Rivian was also the fastest growing automaker across 2023 in the state, seeing a 143pc rise in registrations to 10,297.

But Tesla's slip in market share is a sign of broadening competition rather than the result of a meaningful downturn in sales. The Model Y — which has risen to become the top-selling car of any type globally — and the Model 3 were California's most popular vehicles by far, selling 132,000 and 82,000 units respectively.

State outlook

California has long been a key market for EVs. The state was responsible was 37pc of all BEV registrations in the US in 2022 and has some of the most wide-ranging EV incentive laws in the country.

However, the data shows that the BEV market share has dropped quarter-over-quarter in the state for the first time since CNCDA records began. In Q4, BEVs accounted for 21.1.pc of auto sales in the state, down from a figure of 22.3pc in Q3, and even below Q2's BEV market share of 21.8pc.

Furthermore, BEVs are the only non-ICE powertrain types to decline on a quarterly basis, as PHEVs made up over 11pc of registrations across the full year 2023.

Despite the quarterly downturn, 2023 end-of-year market share for BEVs saw a jump of nearly 5pc over 2022, and in total one third of BEVs registered in the US in 2023 were registered in California — although this is down from 37pc at the end of 2022.

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CNCDA predicts new vehicle registrations in California will approach 1.83 million units in 2024, an increase of 3.2pc from 2023.

This still constitutes a steep slowdown in growth from the nearly 12pc rise seen between 2022 and 2023.

"Vehicle affordability is still an issue, but should improve as the year progresses. As always there are some risks (geopolitical tensions and uncertainties surrounding the presidential election, for example), but if interest rates ease, the market could post a larger increase than expected this year," the report adds.

The wider EV industry has been facing pessimistic demand forecasts for 2024, and Tesla recently declined to issue margin guidance, drawing ire from analysts.

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