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Who Is The World’s Leading EV Maker? It’s Not Tesla

Bertel Schmitt

Contributor

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

Like Tesla’s enormous market capitalization, the outsized mind share of the California carmaker is hard to reconcile with its true market share. A look at the sales data shows that noisy Tesla is quietly being outsold by the true pioneer in the electric vehicle field,  the Renault-Nissan Alliance. The Alliance may get no respect from a media that hangs on to every Musk tweet, but it sure gets the customers.

In the first quarter of 2017, the Renault-Nissan Alliance moved nearly 37,000 electric vehicles, per data supplied by the automakers. That is some 12,000 units, or nearly 50%, more than the 25,000 electric vehicles Tesla said were shipped by the company in the first quarter.

An even bigger surprise: Nissan’s aging Leaf outsold Tesla’s likewise long-in-the-tooth Model S. The Leaf remained the world’s best-selling electric vehicle in the first quarter. It is hardly a secret that the Leaf is to be replaced soon by a completely new model with more range, a pleasing design, and with the semi-autonomous ProPilot package Nissan introduced with its Serena minivan last year. Considering the model change, one would expect Leaf sales to go down, but just the opposite is true. Last March, the outgoing Leaf even outsold Tesla’s Model X in Norway, the Shangri-La of electric cars, noted car counter Jose Pontes wrote.

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Pontes also notes that the top-selling cars in the world’s second-largest (after China) electric car market Europe are all from the Renault-Nissan Alliance. Both in March, and in the first quarter of 2017, the best-selling EV in Europe was Renault’s new Zoe, followed by the Leaf, and then by Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV.

The Outlander is a plug-in hybrid, and battery purists may take issue with the widespread practice of counting PHEVs as electric vehicles. Deduct the Outlander, and the Alliance still trounces Tesla. Together, Nissan’s Leaf and Renault’s Zoe edged out sales of Tesla’s Model S and Model X. What puts the Alliance far ahead of Tesla, even in pure battery terms, is its rich and very underreported portfolio of hard-working electrified workhorses. Some 50,000 electric vans — Nissan’s ENV 200, Renault’s Kangoo ZE, and Mitsubishi’s Minicab-MiEV — deliver the goods in cities around the world, reducing emissions where it’s really needed. Often overlooked in EV-statistics, those “other” EVs contributed nearly 5,000 units to the Alliance’s winning tally in the first three months of the year.