Electric vehicle market share is declining in California even as electric vehicle sales are increasing

These are complicated times for the country's largest electric vehicle market. According to a new quarterly report from the California New Car Dealers Association (CNCDA), electric vehicle sales in California increased in the first quarter of 2024, but market share still fell.

The absolute number of electric vehicles sold in California increased from 89,741 in the fourth quarter of 2023 to 90,296 in the first quarter of 2024, the report said. Nevertheless, the market share of electric vehicles fell from 21.5% at the end of 2023 to 20.9% in the first quarter of 2024. This is because new registrations increased overall and even more non-electric vehicles were sold. The increase in EV sales by volume rather than share is a trend that has continued since the previous quarter.

2024 Tesla Model Y – Courtesy of Tesla, Inc.

Tesla's electric vehicle sales lead in California also continues to shrink, the report said. Tesla registrations fell 7.8% compared to the previous quarter, which saw the once California-based automaker's registrations fall 9.8%.

Without delving deeper into the trends, one could argue that declining Tesla sales, not sales of other brands of electric vehicles, are responsible for the recent decline in electric vehicles in California and elsewhere. That's because older automakers are selling more plug-in vehicles, the report says. Mercedes-Benz and BMW posted the highest gains in the first quarter in California, with increases of 3% and 2.4%, respectively.

2024 BMW iX

2024 BMW iX

Sales of electric vehicles through franchised dealers also rose 14% in the first quarter, while direct sales – the model used by Tesla and some start-up automakers – fell 3%. According to the CNCDA, franchised dealerships account for 66% of “alternative powertrains” in California.

Even as electric vehicle sales rise in the rest of the country, California still accounts for nearly a third of the nation's electric vehicle sales. And despite this decline in market share, one in four new vehicles sold in California have a charging port in the state – although some are plug-in hybrids rather than fully electric models.

Anna Harden

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