Electric vehicles dominated Super Bowl ads, but are still only 9% of passenger car sales

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Visitors wearing face masks check a China-made Tesla Model Y sport utility vehicle (SUV) at the electric vehicle maker’s showroom in Beijing, China January 5, 2021.
Tingshu Wang | Reuters

Six of the seven car brands who ran an ad during the Super Bowl featured electric vehicles, according to analysis published Monday by the online car shopping marketplace Cars.com.

The start-up Polestar featured its Polestar 2, while GM‘s corporate brand advertised several EVs. Other brands pushing electric cars included BMW, GM’s Chevy, Kia, Nissan and Toyota.

Those ad dollars are a sign of where the car industry is going, but don’t reflect where car sales stand right now: Only 9% of total global passenger car sales were electric vehicles, according to new research published Monday from market research company Canalys.

In 2021, 6.5 million EVs were sold worldwide, according to Canalys. That includes fully electric and plug-in hybrid passenger cars and represents 109% growth over 2020.

By comparison, the total global passenger car market grew 4% in 2021, Canalys said.

That means the electric vehicle market is growing at more than 25 times the pace of the car market overall, but it’s still only a small piece of the total.

Of the 6.5 million EVs sold in 2021, 3.2 million EVs were sold in 2021 to mainland China and 2.3 million EVs in Europe.

“In many European countries EVs represented more than a quarter of new cars sold,” said Ashwin Amberkar, analyst at Canalys, in the report. “But customers must be patient. A nine to 12 month wait time for a new EV is not unusual.”

The United States is a much smaller market for EVs, in comparison. Only 535,000 cars, representing about 4% of new cars sold in the United States, were electric.

Tesla has a stronghold on EV sales in the United States, with almost 60% of EV sales in the US going to Elon Musk’s car company.

“The competition’s EV sales are nowhere near Tesla’s in the US since Model 3 shipments ramped up in 2018,” Chris Jones, vice president and chief analyst at Canalys, said in the report. “Tesla even outsells many premium car brands in the overall market.”

With its massive footprint in EV sales in the United States, Tesla has a slight edge over the rest of the EV market globally: 14%  of global EV sales were Tesla, followed by Volkswagen Group  with a 12% global EV market share.

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