Despite semiconductor shortages, rising transaction prices and falling light-vehicle sales overall, battery-electric vehicle volumes are surging across the U.S., driven by luxury leader Tesla and new models from Hyundai Motor Group's mainstream brands.
EV registrations rose 60 percent in the first quarter to 158,689 and took a record 4.6 percent share of the light-vehicle total, according to financial data firm Experian. While total vehicle registrations fell 18 percent in the January-March period to 3.4 million on inventory constraints, a growing stable of electric models attracted early adopters in record numbers.
Tesla Inc. had four models in the EV top 10, followed by the Hyundai-Kia corporate siblings with three vehicles combined. Ford, Nissan and Volkswagen rounded out the group.
Tesla notched 113,882 new registrations for a 59 percent gain compared with the first quarter of last year, Experian said.
Kia surged to second place with 8,450 registrations of its subcompact Niro EV and the newly launched EV6 compact crossover, compared with 1,011 of just the Niro crossover in the year-earlier period.
Ford brand came in third with 7,407 registrations for a 91 percent increase. Mustang Mach-E registrations rose 80 percent, and new truck models showed up for the first time: Experian noted 396 registrations of the E-Transit 350 commercial van and 54 of the new F-150 Lightning, which was formally launched last month.
The Hyundai brand posted 6,964 registrations, up from 2,072 in the first quarter of 2021. Hyundai's highly acclaimed Ioniq 5 compact crossover, which went on sale late last year, made up 6,265 registrations in the first quarter. Hyundai also had 685 registrations of the Kona Electric crossover and 14 for the discontinued Ioniq Electric hatchback.
The Korean automakers pushed rivals Nissan and Volkswagen farther down the list of top EV makers by registration data. Registrations for Nissan's lone EV, the aging but inexpensive Leaf, rose 23 percent to 4,401 in the first quarter. Volkswagen had 2,926 registrations of its ID4 compact crossover, compared with 387 a year earlier.
To be sure, the race for the EV market is a function of compelling product, pricing and inventory. Every automaker on the top EV list, including Tesla, has said it's struggling with global parts shortages. Tesla has been raising prices steadily, and legacy automakers have seen dealers add markups to factory sticker prices.
General Motors, once an EV leader with the Chevrolet Bolt subcompact, posted limited electric sales in the first quarter because of a lengthy factory shutdown. The Bolt posted 479 registrations, compared with 9,099 a year earlier. On the other end of the EV spectrum, the new GMC Hummer pickup notched 80 registrations as it ramps production.
In other results, Polestar generated 2,384 registrations while startup Rivian Automotive Inc. posted 701 and Lucid Motors landed 308.
Registration data does not track sales data exactly, as vehicles can be sold in one month and registered in another, and some registration data relies on estimates. Since Tesla does not break out U.S. sales, registration data serves as a proxy and an apples-to-apples measure of market share. Likewise, not all automakers break out EVs that share a nameplate with non-EVs.
In separate but related data, Cox Automotive put EV sales at 173,561, for a 5.2 percent share of the light-vehicle market in the first quarter, compared with 2.5 percent a year earlier.
"Tesla is still the dominant brand in the pure EV market, but new product from Ford, Hyundai, Kia, Volkswagen and Volvo are driving solid growth," Cox Automotive said last month. In particular, luxury EVs are in high demand, Cox said.
In the overall luxury market, including gasoline and electrified powertrains, Experian data shows Tesla, with its 59 percent gain to 113,882 first-quarter registrations, expanding its lead on last year's luxury champ, BMW. The German automaker saw its numbers fall by 3.4 percent to 80,482, Experian said.
Likewise, No. 3 Lexus, No. 4 Mercedes-Benz and No. 5 Audi all posted double-digit decreases in registrations in the first quarter. Among the top 15 luxury brands in Experian's rankings, only Tesla and Genesis posted year-over-year gains in the first quarter. Genesis, part of Hyundai Motor Group, was listed as No. 12 above Infiniti, Alfa Romeo and Jaguar.