Tesla chases down Toyota, as electric SUV sales boosted by rebates

Tesla Toyota electric SUV

Electric SUV sales are driving a rise in EV sales in Australia, but it is still Tesla that paint the real growth story in 2021, having nearly quadrupled sales over the year. Australia, however, still lags the rest of the world.

Official data provided by industry statistician Vfacts shows that sales of new EVs in Australia in October were 185% – or nearly triple – the same month of last year. But these figures do not include sales of runaway market leader Tesla.

Our estimates, thanks to updated shipping data from tracker @Vedaprime, are that almost 9,200 vehicles had been shipped to Australia by Tesla in 2021 by the end of September, and some of the late arrivals have been progressively delivered through October.



More ships are expected in November as Tesla ramps up for the final quarter of 2021, when as The Driven has noted previously the Model 3 (which now starts at just $59,900, before rebates) may well pip the ubiquitous Toyota Camry, which costs half the price, and which has so far accumulated sales of 11,000 so far this year.

It remains to be seen if Tesla achieves that significant milestone, but in any case it is more than likely to quadruple its 2020 sales of approximately 2,600 in one easy swoop.

That’s without a boost from the Model S and Model X, which have not made an appearance in Tesla sales in 2021 so far since the Californian carmaker downed tools to refresh its premium models.

The non-tesla EV sales so far total 4,029 in the year to data, so Australia is on track to have added 15,000 new EVs to the road by the end of 2021.

The non-Tesla increase in EV sales, which amounted to 461 electric cars in October, according to the Vfacts data put together by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, was also encouraging considering the wider auto market experienced an 8% drop in sales for the period – the first since its post-Covid rally earlier in 2021 after a two-year decline.

What we’re seeing is a trend where electric models are picking up pace against their internal combustion engine equivalents – particularly in the SUV segment.

It’s a trend we also saw in 2020 when the Kona EV hit the market – and given Tesla’s popularity will no doubt take off even further when the Model Y is finally introduced. But this is not looking likely until 2022 now, according to sources.

MG’s cheap(ish) and cheerful ZS EV compact SUV, which is priced at $44,900 driveaway, continues its popularity with 110 sold in October, accounting for around 10% of the SAIC-owned carmaker’s ZS sales and tipping MG over the 1,000 mark with 1,099 electric ZS EVs sold in 2021.



The next two top selling EVs are of note because neither are eligible for State EV incentives of $3,000 for vehicles under $68,750 introduced in three states (NSW and Victoria, who will also be joined by South Australia).

Mercedes-Benz sold 68 of its $76,900 (before on-roads) EQA electric compact SUVs – not a shabby amount when you consider it sold 98 GLAs fossil fuel cars upon which the electric version is based.

Volvo delivered 49 of its $76,990 (before-on roads) XC40 Recharge electric SUVs, down from its post-launch 131 sold in September, accounting for 25% of its XC40 sales and also 59 of the plug-in hybrid variety.

Volvo managing director Stephen Connor said in a note by email that XC40 Recharge pure electric orders are well on track to match that of its internal combustion engine stablemates – and he wants to see it reach 100% of XC40 sales by 2025.

“There is no doubt Australians are embracing electric cars in increasing numbers,” Connor said, adding, “Our forward order book for Recharge heading into next year is very strong.”

“XC40 Recharge Pure Electric is the first of five all-electric models Volvo will launch over the next five years as globally we strive to make all-electric cars 50% of our sales by 2025 although my personal ambition for Australia is 100% by 2025.”

The plug-in XC40 Recharge accounted for 20% of the 276 plug-in hybrids sales sold in October 2020, making 2,635 sold year-to-date in a doubling of sales from 2020 that also shows more buyers are choosing electrified transport options.

The (still modest) increases in EV sales are against an 8% drop in combustion engine vehicle sales that has been attributed to the global supply chain issues which are challenging many industries, and which has seen used car sales trend upwards.

But despite these issues, EV sales are rising. However, this is in part because electric vehicle sales in Australia are still so low that even a small increase in sales numbers equates to a big jump percentage-wise.

While state rebates, topped up by other measures to sweeten the EV deal such as free rego in ACT and South Australia, and no stamp duty in NSW, may be starting to have their effect, sitting starkly against the encouragement from states is still a lack of action at a federal level.



Although Australia has signed onto a “Breakthrough Agreement” at COP26 in Glasgow, there are no measures and no legislated vehicle emissions limits at a national level that would discourage carmakers from continuing to dump outdated and inefficient combustion engine cars on the local market.

With 500,000 new petrol cars and 300,000 new diesel cars on the road since 2021 started, there is still a hell of a long way to go.

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