Volkswagen (VLKAF) sold 231,600 electric cars with batteries in 2020, according to figures released by the company on Wednesday. While it is still less than half the number of sales Tesla (TSLA) made, it represents an increase of 214% compared to the previous year and shows that Germany’s huge car industry is starting to challenge the leader in electric cars.
“We are well on our way to achieving our goal of becoming the market leader in battery-electric vehicles,” Ralf Brandstätter, CEO of Volkswagen Passenger Cars, said in a statement on Tuesday.
7;s most popular battery electric vehicle was the new ID.3, which sold 56,500 units. Sale of the compact e-Golf and even smaller e-up! were 41,300 and 22,200, respectively. Audi, the group’s luxury brand, sold 47,300 e-tron SUV and sportback models, while customers bought 20,000 electric Porsche Taycans.
Sales of hybrid cars powered by electricity and conventional fuels also increased. Volkswagen sold 190,500 plug-in hybrids last year, a jump of 175% compared to 2019.
“2020 was a turning point for Volkswagen and marked a breakthrough in electric mobility,” Brandstätter said.
However, Tesla still poses a formidable challenge. The company led by Elon Musk reached its goal of building 500,000 cars by 2020, it reported earlier this month. Production and deliveries rose more than a third from the level in 2019, an impressive gain, especially given that the company’s plant in Fremont, California, was closed for nearly two months due to the pandemic. It is building a plant in Germany after opening another in China in 2019.
Investors have rewarded Tesla by making it one of the world’s most valuable companies. For $ 805 billion, Tesla’s market value is more than eight times that of Volkswagen, even though the German company manufactures approx. 19 times as many vehicles.
Volkswagen has said it plans to invest 35 billion. € ($ 43 billion) in electric cars by 2025, and sales figures for 2020 suggest customers are starting to respond. The manufacturing giant intends to launch around 70 pure electric models by 2030 as they drive to catch up with Tesla.
Other German car manufacturers are participating in the race. BMW (BMWYY) sold 44,530 battery cars in 2020, an increase of 13% over the previous year and over 148,000 plug-in hybrids. Daimlers (DMLRY) Mercedes-Benz sold more than 160,000 plug-in hybrids and pure electric vehicles last year.
The electric boom came as the pandemic pushed overall sales in the industry. The Volkswagen Group sold 9.3 million cars in 2020, a 15% drop from the previous year, but it said deliveries were only 3.2% lower in December as demand rose again.
Volkswagen is trying to prove that a carmaker that a few years ago cheated regulators into selling polluting diesels can produce electric vehicles that people want to buy and politicians will embrace when tackling the climate crisis.
It makes significant inroads in some markets. In Norway, where economic incentives make most electric vehicle models cheaper to buy than similar petrol models, the Audi e-tron was the sales leader in 2020 and surpassed the Tesla Model 3.