Model 3 takes #1 sales spot in Germany—before the opening of Tesla's Berlin Gigafactory
Odd as it may seem now, there was a time not too long ago that Tesla was struggling in the German market. Sales in the land of the Autobahn were meager compared to other European countries, and Elon Musk was concerned. “I feel like if we can’t do well in Germany, then that’s not a good sign,” he said in 2013 during a visit to a German Tesla service center.
Above: Tesla's Model 3 (Flickr: Mark Vletter)
Three years later, things were looking up—Tesla sold more electric cars in Germany than any other automaker in 2015, and by 2016 the media was running stories with headlines like “German automakers who once laughed off Elon Musk are now starting to worry.”
As 2022 approaches, that worry has evolved into something like panic—Volkswagen Group CEO Herbert Deiss has been warning his lieutenants that VW needs to transform its factories in order to catch up with Tesla, and he even took the unprecedented step of inviting Musk to address 200 Volkswagen executives via a video call (a move for which he has taken a lot of flak from inside his company and its associated union).
This existential angst is not based on fears of the future—it’s based on what’s happening in the here and now. In September, Model 3 was the best-selling car in Europe, according to auto analyst JATO (via The Driven). This represents the first time that any EV, or any vehicle manufactured outside of Europe, has taken the top spot. Germany has become one of Tesla’s biggest European markets, accounting for around 25% of the company’s sales on the continent so far this year.
Before we mourn the murder (or accidental suicide?) of the European auto industry, let’s remember that monthly sales figures don’t always indicate long-term trends. The entire auto industry is struggling with shortages of semiconductors and other components, and by all accounts Tesla has dealt with the dearth better than most competitors.
The production problems are causing all sorts of weird distortions in the market. “Dealers continue to face issues with the availability of new cars due to the chip shortage. As a result, unwilling to wait more than a year for a new car, many consumers have turned to the used car market,” said JATO Global Analyst Felipe Munoz. The Driven also reports that some independent dealers have been buying up Teslas and offering six-month free trials, in a complex dodge to harvest Germany’s €6,000 ($9,418) tax incentive.
So, September’s spectacular showing may not be repeated in the months to come. Then again, it might. It’s anybody’s guess exactly when the line at Tesla’s Berlin Gigafactory will crank up, but barring any last-minute snags, the production ramp should be well underway in early 2022.