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Tesla Model 3 is first battery electric car to top Europe’s monthly sales chart

The Tesla Model 3 was the bestselling car across Europe in September, the first time a battery electric vehicle has topped the monthly sales charts in the region.

Tesla sold 24,600 Model 3 cars during the month, taking a 2.6% market share that meant it outperformed established internal combustion engine models such as Renault’s Clio or Volkswagen’s Golf, according to figures collated by Jato Dynamics, an automotive data company.

The Model 3 may not sustain its chart-topping position because Tesla has previously pushed imports at the end of the quarter. Nevertheless, it represents another milestone in the car industry as it prepares for the end of petrol and diesel sales within the next decade in some markets. That includes a 2035 ban on all internal combustion engines in the UK, where the Model 3 is already the most popular electric vehicle.

Petrol sales still dominate across Europe because of the lack of affordable battery electric vehicles but there has been a big switch away from diesel because of scandals related to air quality. Before the pandemic, there were 10.3 new diesel cars registered for every electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle but that ratio has decreased to only 1.3, Jato said.

Tesla last week recorded record quarterly sales as well as record profits of $1.6bn (£1.2bn). The success of Model 3 sales and its Model Y crossover meant that Tesla was the biggest seller of battery electric vehicles in Europe in September.

The carmaker received other positive news on Monday when the US car rental firm Hertz said it has ordered 100,000 Tesla cars for delivery by the end of 2022, as it invests to build the largest electric vehicle rental fleet in North America. Tesla shares were up 4% at $946 before stock markets in New York opened.

Tesla’s European battery crown is likely to be challenged by Germany’s Volkswagen and Stellantis, the French-Italian combination of Peugeot and Fiat Chrysler.

Tesla’s ascent to the top spot – also the first time that any non-European model has achieved the distinction – coincided with falling sales from many of its traditional rivals, which are struggling to get hold of computer chips amid a protracted global shortage. The crisis has hurt carmakers around the world, although Tesla has got around some of the problems by rewriting software so that it can use available chips.

Total European car registrations fell to only 964,800 units during the month, a 25% decrease compared with September 2020, and a 24% drop compared with September 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic struck, Jato said.

Felipe Munoz, a global analyst at Jato, said: “Dealers continue to face issues with the availability of new cars due to the chip shortage. As a result, unwilling to wait more than a year for a new car, many consumers have turned to the used car market.”