Ford falls out of favour as drivers plug in to Tesla

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In Germany, Tesla’s December sales reached 6,662, or 2.9pc of cars sold in the country, lagging homegrown brands such as Volkswagen, Audi, BMW and Mercedes, which between them held 40pc of sales.

In France, where only 15pc cars sold were battery-powered compared to Britain’s 26pc, Tesla’s Model 3 came in as the 14th-best-selling for the year, with just 1.5pc of sales. Consumers here, too, buy more homegrown brands with the Renault Zoe proving the most popular French electric car.

According to Jim Saker, professor emeritus and car expert at Loughborough University, the UK’s best-sellers list is a very different picture to 20 years ago, when Ford had up to a third of the market share.

“They were dominant,” he says. “One of the issues they faced is that they have tried to have a very broad range of products,” which has cannibalised sales.

In 2021, Ford’s more profitable Puma was its best-selling model with more than 28,000 units sold, ranking it eighth as the car maker struggled along with the wider industry to buy computer chips.

Its success story has been in the van market, which it dominates. And while the best selling car last year was the Vauxhall Corsa, with 41,000 sales, the most-purchased vehicle overall will be the Ford Transit Custom, with more than 50,000.

Prof Saker adds: “Tesla is still very much in the early adopters phase where, if you look at the profile of people buying them, it’s normally somebody with an income over £100,000 and has a drive. In the UK, they’re still very much perceived to be more of a luxury item, or a company car.”

Data from research company New AutoMotive suggests that more affluent areas such as Oxfordshire Bristol and London are leading the way in the take up of electric vehicles, fuelled by customers with short commutes, driveways, deeper pockets and lots of chargers.

Carmakers must not forget customers in rural areas who don’t have such big budgets if they want to succeed, argues Saker, as electric cars can still often cost £10,000 more than comparable diesel and petrol models.

There are other reasons not to get too excited about the recent figures, Prof Saker points out: coronavirus shutdowns have limited the availability of competing models and caused a surge in second hand prices, making shiny new Teslas look a little more tempting.

Tesla and other electric manufacturers must watch out for competing technologies, he adds.  

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