Tesla knocked off perch as EVs defy Australian auto market downturn

The Australian auto market took a downward turn in April as global supply chain issues continue to cause vehicle delivery imports across the board.

But despite the market-wide challenges, electric vehicle sales continue to grow, signaling a rise in interest. Notably however, due to a halt in vehicle production for Australia, Tesla – perhaps for the first time since the launch of the Model 3 – has lost its place as EV market leader as other brands step into to fill a gap.

New figures from Vfacts show a 12.2% decline in auto sales, which FCAI chief Tony Weber said “is not a reflection on the demand for new vehicles in the marketplace.”

Rather, he said: “This is a reflection on the global automotive industry’s ability to supply vehicles to not only the Australian market, but all markets throughout the world.

“Automotive manufacturers continue to suffer from a shortage of microprocessor units which is impacting their ability to ramp up production to pre-pandemic levels.

“Covid-19 continues to impact manufacturing and supply, particularly where factories have been forced to close and shipping operations are yet to fully recover. This is being reflected in the extended delivery times for new vehicles.”

The nascent electric vehicle market in Australia has not been immune to these challenges either.

Delivery of the most popular EV in Australia, the Tesla Model 3, will now take up to 12 months for new customers. With Tesla’s Shanghai factory recently opened at a third capacity closed in April due to Covid-19, and the Model Y still not on the menu for Australia, this extended wait time does not look like ending any time soon.

The Polestar 2 reduced its Pilot Pack to a “light” version and cut the price from $5,000 to $3,400 in February after it was forced to remove the LED pixel lights due to microprocessor shortages. A similar change was made to the XC40 Recharge and a spokesperson for Volvo said drivers can contact their Volvo dealer to discuss pricing.

But despite these challenges, electric vehicle sales are on the increase. The latest figures – which suggest a fivefold rise in sales – from Vfacts will appear artificially inflated until this time next year because Tesla is now reporting on local sales figures.

When Tesla’s sales – 4,469 Tesla Model 3s in the first four months of 2022 – are removed from the equation, there is still an encouraging 150% increase in EV sales compared to the same period in 2021.

In total, there were 866 EVs sold in Australia in April – triple that of 2021 and perhaps for the first time sales were not dominated by Tesla. (Note, this was not a record. In March, excluding Tesla sales, there were 1,115 EVs sold.)

Our data for separate EV model sales is not yet complete as we wait for carmakers to fill the gaps in models that share the same name as their combustion stablemates. We expect the standouts will be Hyundai and MG and will update this article as more information comes to hand.

However, what we can share is that Polestar sold almost twice as many of its electric fastback as Tesla sold Model 3s: just 52 Tesla Model 3s were delivered in April, compared to 93 Polestar 2s. (Although it should be noted Tesla usually focuses on deliveries at the end of a quarter, so maybe expect a bounce back in June).

Other market leaders for the month of April include the Mercedes Benz EQA (65), the Porsche Taycan (58), Kia EV6 (52), the EQC (38), Nissan Leaf (34), and the Hyundai Ioniq 5 (30) .

Less popular, but generally more expensive, models include the Audi e-tron (19), the BMW i4 (12), the Mazda MX-30 (5) (which came last on our “bang for buck” leaderboard for EVs under $80,000 ), and the BMW iW (8). Just one BMW i3 made it off the lot as BMW’s original leaves the market.

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