Currently reading: Renault Zoe eclipses Tesla Model 3 as Europe's best-selling EV
French hatch topped 2020 EV sales in a rapidly growing market, while the ID 3 led strong results for the Volkswagen Group

The Renault Zoe overtook the Tesla Model 3 to become the best-selling battery-electric car (BEV) in Europe in 2020, with the total 1.42 million BEV and plug-in hybrid cars sold representing a 147% year-on-year increase.

According to data from car industry analysts Jato Dynamics, electrified vehicles – either full-EV or PHEV models – accounted for 12% of all cars sold across 23 European markets, including the European Union member states, the UK, Norway and Switzerland.

The sharp rise in electrified vehicle sales was driven by the increasing availability of both EVs and PHEVs and the need of manufacturers to increase sales of low-emission cars to avoid EU emissions fines.

The Renault Zoe hatch led the sales of full BEVs, with the 99,261 examples sold in 2020 a 118% year-on-year increase. That helped the Zoe pass the Tesla Model 3, 2019’s best-selling BEV. Tesla sold 85,713 Model 3, representing a 9% year-on-year fall.

The new Volkswagen ID 3 hatch was third on the best-seller chart, with 56,118 units sold, despite only going on sale in the middle of last year. Notably, Jato data shows the ID 3 was the second best-selling car overall across a wider market of 27 European countries in December, with 27,997 models sold during the month. It was beaten by only the Volkswagen Golf, which sold 30,073. Volkswagen heavily pushed ID 3 sales in December in a bid to minimise an EU fine due to a manufacturer pool led by the VW Group narrowly missing its CO2 target.

Spearheaded by the ID 3, VW Group models accounted for 25.2% of all BEVs sold in the 23 major European markets in 2020. The recently discontinued e-Golf and Audi E-tron featured alongside the ID 3 in the top 10 BEVs.

The VW Group’s success meant it passed Tesla to become Europe’s biggest EV manufacturer, with the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance also moving up to second. While Tesla accounted for 31% of all EV sales in 2019, its 13.3% market share in 2020 was only the third highest.

Meanwhile, the Mercedes-Benz A250e was the biggest-selling PHEV in 2020, with 29,427 sold. Sales of the Mitsubishi Outlander, which led the market in 2019, fell by 21% to 26,673 models, narrowly ahead of the Volvo XC40 Recharge T5 and Volkswagen Passat PHEV.

Best-selling battery electric vehicles in Europe region in 2020 (Source: Jato Dynamics)

1 Renault Zoe: 99,261

2 Tesla Model 3: 85,713

3 Volkswagen ID 3: 56,118

4 Hyundai Kona: 47,796

5 Volkswagen eGolf: 33,650

6 Peugeot e208: 31,287

Back to top

James Attwood

James Attwood, digital editor
Title: Acting magazine editor

James is Autocar's acting magazine editor. Having served in that role since June 2023, he is in charge of the day-to-day running of the world's oldest car magazine, and regularly interviews some of the biggest names in the industry to secure news and features, such as his world exclusive look into production of Volkswagen currywurst. Really.

Before first joining Autocar in 2017, James spent more than a decade in motorsport journalist, working on Autosport,, F1 Racing and Motorsport News, covering everything from club rallying to top-level international events. He also spent 18 months running Move Electric, Haymarket's e-mobility title, where he developed knowledge of the e-bike and e-scooter markets. 

Join the debate

Add a comment…
Torque Stear 27 January 2021

Tesla sales in europe tell us very little as they are all supplied from the US essentially the amount sent to the EU is basically the excess volume they have once North America has been catered for now that the China factory is up and running.

The volumes of the Model 3 also change massively month by month depending on when the car transporter ship arrives. Hence the headlines of "X EV outsells the Model 3" and "Model 3 is the 3rd most popular car in X country".

The key point is that the Zoe basically sells in europe the Model 3 sells globally so 99,000 Zoes plays 360,000 Model 3, which also have a selling price around twice as much.

Regarding profitability as Tesla don't have non EV models to hide their margines in their profite margin can be taken from their annual report it is 25% which is very good about what BMW achieve.

xxxx 27 January 2021

Statistics, emm not forgetting the average price of model 3 is nearly twice the price of a Zoe. Still good results around for the bev.

Andrew1 27 January 2021
The total profit is more important, though. The price itself is important, sure, but the margins multiplied by sales is what will ultimately make our break a model. (save attempt 18)
xxxx 27 January 2021

Outside of companies themselves profit per model is unknown. This sales chart is exactly that, a sales chart and you have to go down to 9th before you get a more expensive car which is has the big advantage of being a European brand.  

Andrew1 28 January 2021
You must be a brexiteer, only those take stuff out of their rear and present them as facts, while being totally ignorant but full of conceit.
The figures are public, reported by the companies themselves (because they are public companies, you see?) and you can find them online.

I can't post the links here but you can find the profit margins per model and per vehicle with a Google search. Try bloomberg and business insider.

Moreover, everyone following the automotive industry news knows Tesla hasn't recorded an annual profit in its 15 years of existence. Model 3, being the cheapest in the range, naturally has the smallest chance of being profitable.