Apr 5, 2021 - Economy

The electric vehicle sales surge

Illustration of electric cars and lightning bolts

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Tesla's stock was up over 7% in premarket trading this morning after it reported record deliveries in the year's first quarter on Friday. But it's not the only manufacturer seeing sales increases this year.

Why it matters: Even as gasoline-powered sales return from the pandemic, cars with plugs are going faster, albeit from a much smaller base.

  • "It’s clear EV sales, both in the U.S. and globally, are increasing on a percentage basis faster than traditional internal combustion vehicles," iSeeCars.com analyst Karl Brauer tells Axios.
  • "Multiple automakers have introduced high-volume models in the past 12 months, with Tesla’s Model Y and Ford’s Mach-E being two prime examples," he said in an email.

Driving the news: Tesla beat analysts' expectations with 184,800 deliveries.

The full EV sector's Q1 tallies are still emerging, though Tesla is the leading player.

But individual company figures and a Morgan Stanley research note have some noteworthy numbers.

  • Over 181,000 fully electric vehicles were sold worldwide in February, which is up 138% compared to February 2020, per Morgan Stanley and data partner EV-Volumes. And January's numbers were even higher.
  • Several major automakers saw increases, including Ford, thanks to the initial deliveries of its new Mustang Mach-E.
  • Ford said in a separate release that it sold 6,614 in the U.S. despite what amounts to a cameo on dealer lots so far.
  • GM reported that U.S. Q1 sales of its Bolt EV are up over 50% compared to last year.

The intrigue: Higher figures are likely in part related to the pandemic, but that alone doesn't account for the acceleration.

Its full effects were not apparent in early 2020, and unlike internal combustion models, EV sales actually rose last year.

But, but, but: EVs still represent a very small (but rising!) fraction of total sales, and the U.S. lags behind China and Europe.

  • Per Morgan Stanley, fully electric cars were 2.3% of U.S. sales in February, compared to 6.3% in Europe and 7.9% in China.
  • U.S. manufacturers face battery supply chain challenges.
  • And the global chip shortage is affecting the overall industry, threatening production and sales.

What's next: A fuller picture of global Q1 EV sales will emerge in the coming days.

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