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Germany Likes German Electric Cars; Leaf, Volt, Not So Much

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2014 BMW i3

2014 BMW i3

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It isn't unusual for citizens of a particular country to employ a little patriotism when buying vehicles and stick to brands from that country.

A huge swathe of Americans buy cars built by the Big Three, for example. Italians buy plenty of Fiats. French drivers often stick to Renaults, Peugeots and Citroens.

And in Germany, it seems, electric car buyers are only really interested by electric cars designed or built in Germany--at the expense of some big-name vehicles.

EV Obsession has kept track of Germany's electric car sales figures in January and February, and two recent German debutantes sit atop the list by quite some margin--BMW's i3 and the Volkswagen e-Up.

Both had strong starts to the year, the e-Up managing 314 units in January, and BMW sold 229 i3s. February figures were lower, but the positions reversed--BMW led with 179 cars, and 101 e-Ups found homes.

It's too early to see any real trend as far as popularity goes, but there's certainly a trend as far as nationality is concerned--following these two German vehicles is the Fortwo Electric Drive, from Daimler-owned Smart.

January's sales of 106 Electric Drives dipped to 84 in February, and both VW and BMW are likely to overtake it as the highest-selling electric car in Germany this year, following its 2,146 total in 2013.

What's clear though is that no other electric vehicle is getting a look-in.

Closest is France's Renault Zoe and America's Tesla Model S--110 and 96 sold so far this year, and Renault's example was the second-best selling EV in Germany in 2013.

The Leaf is close too with 95 sold so far in 2014, but that's far behind its market-leading position in several other European markets.

The car Nissan trades places with in the U.S, Chevrolet's Volt, is virtually nowhere to be seen in Germany--just 11 were sold in February, its only sales this year. And unusually, its German-badged Opel cousin, the Ampera, isn't doing much better on 19 units year-to-date.

So what do these numbers tell us?

Well, that buyers are clearly loyal to vehicles built in their own country--in France, Renault's Zoe and Kangoo led last year's charts.

On that basis, several upcoming German plug-in cars--the Volkswagen Golf GTE and e-Golf, Audi's A3 Sportback e-tron--are likely to do very well indeed in Germany, all not only German but sized for the popular compact car segment.

Nationality clearly isn't the only factor--after all, Japan's Nissan Leaf is only a little behind the Chevy Volt in U.S. sales--but for companies designing competitive, innovative and attractive electric vehicles, it certainly helps in Europe.

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