MUNICH -- Germany has overtaken Norway for sales of full-electric cars since the start of the year, putting Europe's biggest auto market in position to become the regional leader on an annual basis for the first time.
Through November, 57,533 new EVs were registered in Germany, compared with 56,893 for Norway, according to statistics published by transportation agencies in both countries.
Norway has sold the most electric cars of any in Europe each year since at least 2010, when the Nissan Leaf, the first mass-market full-electric car, made its debut.
The numbers offer fresh evidence that the technology is becoming more mainstream in Europe's automaking heartland, where Germany's Volkswagen Group, BMW and Daimler are preparing for a major EV push.
While Norway emerged as an early regional hot spot thanks to generous government incentives, the country has about 6.4 percent of the population of Germany and so growth is limited. Across the region, governments are ramping up subsidies.
"The electric model offensive of the German manufacturers is in full swing," Bernhard Mattes, head of the country's VDA auto lobby, said last week.
German automakers will triple their electric car offerings to 150 models by 2023 and invest 50 billion euros by 2024, he said.
Norway and Germany have been neck-and-neck in electric-car sales this year. Norway held the upper hand for most of 2019, with Germany gaining momentum in recent months.
Statistics published Monday by the Norwegian Road Federation OFV show sales in November of new battery powered cars fell 27 percent to 3,697.
In Germany, the number increased 9.1 percent to 4,651, according to data last week from the country's Federal Motor Transport Authority, or KBA.
Even with last month's increases, however, electric vehicles remain a small part of overall sales and the greening of Germany's car fleet still has a long way to go.
Across Europe, sales of electric cars made up just 3.1 percent of new registrations in the third quarter, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers Association.
Before the latest numbers, Germany was already a regional leader when taking into account plug-in hybrid and full-electric cars.
It's now displaced Norway for both types of electrified vehicles.
Other countries will follow as consumers in the region adopt e-cars, according to Matthias Schmidt, a Berlin-based independent automotive analyst.
"The Norwegian electric passenger-car market is currently a very large fish in a tiny European electrified pond, helped by the generous comparative fiscal benefits," he said.
Consumer appetite for electric models will be further tested next year when Germany's domestic automakers start to roll out competing models to Tesla's most-affordable offering, the Model 3.
Tesla's sales in Germany rose 130 percent last month on demand for the model, and through November, they are up 432 percent, according to the KBA.
Volkswagen's ID3 will go on sale starting at just under 30,000 euros ($33,000). That compares with 20,000 euros for the cheapest combustion version of the VW Golf, and roughly 44,000 euros for a Model 3.
The German government has also sweetened cash incentives for electrified cars as part of a large-scale climate package. The benefits would start on cars costing less than 40,000 euros, which Schmidt said should fuel demand for more affordable models.
In a sign of the importance of incentives for the market, sales in China have been dropping for four straight months after the government scaled back subsidies.
China accounts for about half of the world's sales of electrified cars. The U.S. is second, and until now, Norway has been third.