Sales of hybrids and plug-in hybrids in Europe will triple to more than 750,000 in the next three years, analysts at LMC Automotive predict, as automakers scramble to reach tougher CO2 targets that start to take effect in 2020. Demand for the alternative powertrains rose 22 percent to about 280,000 last year, according to LMC figures, helped by rising acceptance of the technology and generous government incentives.
Plug-in hybrids led the way with a sales rise of 163 percent to 96,451 last year, according to figures from market researcher JATO Dynamics, which attributed part of the increase to expansion of the sector. Despite the intensifying competition the Mitsubishi Outlander remained Europe's No. 1 plug-in hybrid with sales of 31,214 units last year, up 57 percent on 2014.
The Volkswagen Golf GTE jumped to No. 2 in Europe during its first full year of sales followed by the closely related Audi A3 e-tron. The VW Group models both use the automaker's MQB architecture. The German automaker also sells the VW Passat GTE midsize sedan, which finished 2015 at No. 7 on the list of Europe's top-selling plug-in hybrids. VW may be adding another model to the list of leaders as it showed a concept for a GTE version of its new Tiguan compact SUV at the Detroit auto show in January. The Tiguan is a direct rival to the Outlander.
BMW also is emerging as a strong player in the plug-in hybrid segment. The i8 supercar finished last year at No. 9 with sales of 2,051, just ahead of the plug-in version of BMW's X5 large SUV. The company will add to its portfolio with the 330e, which is the plug-in hybrid version of the new 3 series midsize model line. In addition, BMW's lineup includes the i3, which is sold either with a range-extending engine or as a full-electric model. The i3 with the range extender outsold the battery-powered variant 6,566 to 5,481 in 2015. LMC sees no future growth for variants with range-extending engines.