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EVs Made Up 10% of All New Cars Sold Last Year

China, Europe drive electric-vehicle expansion as U.S. gains traction

By WILLIAM BOSTON
Tue, Jan 17, 2023 8:52amGrey Clock 4 min

BERLIN—Electric-vehicle sales crossed a key milestone last year, achieving around 10% market share for the first time, driven mainly by strong growth in China and Europe, according to fresh data and estimates.

While EVs still make up a fraction of car sales in the U.S., their share of the total market is becoming substantial in Europe and China, and they are increasingly influencing the fortunes of the car market there as the technology goes mainstream. The surge in EV sales also contrasted with the broader car market that suffered from economic worries, inflation and production disruptions.

Global sales of fully electric vehicles totalled around 7.8 million units, an increase of as much as 68% from the previous year, according to preliminary research from LMC Automotive and EV-Volumes.com, research groups that track automotive sales.

Ralf Brandstätter, the head of Volkswagen AG’s China business, told reporters on Friday that electric vehicles would continue expanding fast and that China could soon reach a point where sales of conventional vehicles begin to permanently decline as plug-in vehicles take bigger market share.

“Last year, every fourth vehicle we sold in China was a plug-in, and this year it will be every third auto,” Mr. Brandstätter said. “We haven’t reached the tipping point yet, but we’re expecting to get there between 2025 and 2030.”

For the full year, fully electric vehicles accounted for 11% of total car sales in Europe and 19% in China, according to LMC Automotive. Combined with plug-in hybrid vehicles, which can be plugged in to recharge the battery but also have a small combustion engine, the share of electric vehicles sold in Europe rose to 20.3% of the total last year, according to EV-Volumes.com.

The U.S. lags behind China and Europe in the rollout of EVs, but last year auto makers sold 807,180 fully electric vehicles in the U.S., a rise in the share of all-electric vehicles to 5.8% of all vehicles sold from 3.2% the year before. Tesla is still the world’s dominant EV maker, but conventional auto makers are shortening its lead with new electric-model launches.

In Germany, the largest auto market in Europe, electric vehicles accounted for 25% of new vehicle production last year, according to VDA, the German automotive manufacturers association. In December, there were more EVs sold in the country than conventional cars.

New-car sales overall fell around 1% to 80.6 million vehicles, according to the LMC data, with nearly 4% growth in China helping to offset a decline of 8% in the U.S. and 7% in Europe, which was hit by the weakening global economy, soaring energy costs, supply-chain disruptions and the war in Ukraine.

Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, the German luxury-car maker, was one of many manufacturers last year to see sales of plug-in models rise even as overall sales tumbled. BMW reported a 5% decline in total new-car sales but saw EV sales more than double last year.

“We are confident that we can repeat this success next year, because we have a continued high order backlog for fully electric models,” BMW sales chief Pieter Nota, said this month, commenting on the growth in sales of electric models.

VW, Europe’s biggest manufacturer by sales, said on Thursday that overall new-car sales fell 7% to 8.3 million vehicles last year, but sales of electric vehicles rose 26% to 572,100 units. The sales figures encompass the company’s large stable of brands, including VW, sports-car maker Porsche, luxury-car brand Audi and passenger-car brands Skoda and Seat.

The bulk of VW’s sales of EVs were in Europe, but sales growth was strongest in China and the U.S., the company said.

Other manufacturers reported a similar divide of strong growth in sales of electric cars—boosted in part by the availability of a wider array of models in addition to market leader Tesla Inc.—and weak or declining sales of conventional vehicles. Ford Motor Co., Mercedes-Benz Group AG and BMW each said their EV sales more than doubled in 2022, while their total vehicle sales declined.

Photos: The EV Rivals Aiming for Tesla’s Crown in China

European auto makers have focused their EV production and sales on home markets as they try to meet European Union emissions regulations. They also began last year to more aggressively expand their EV business in other major markets, especially China and the U.S.

In China, which accounted for around two-thirds of global sales of fully electric cars last year, domestic manufacturers are gaining ground on traditional Western auto makers and are also beginning to expand into Europe and the U.S.

Worldwide, Tesla maintained the top spot in a global ranking of manufacturers by sales of all-electric vehicles, followed by Chinese manufacturers BYD Co. and SAIC Motor Corp., and brands belonging to the VW group, according to a study published by Stefan Bratzel, director of the Center of Automotive Management, an automotive-research group in Germany.

In the U.S., Ford is the second-largest maker of EVs by sales, followed by Hyundai Motor Co. and its affiliate Kia Corp. Meanwhile, General Motors Co., VW and Nissan Motor Co. lost EV market share in the U.S. last year.

While EVs are showing signs of becoming more mainstream globally, analysts warn that repeating last year’s strong EV performance in 2023 could be difficult as economic worries weigh on consumers, and cash rebates on EVs are reduced or scrapped completely in some countries. Rising electricity prices in Europe in the wake of Russia’s attack on Ukraine have also diminished the appeal of EVs compared with gas-powered cars.

Germany witnessed a surge in last-minute EV purchases in December, as consumers rushed to take advantage of government incentives before they were cut this year. Since Jan. 1, government subsidies for the purchase of an EV with a listing price of up to 40,000 euros, equivalent to about $43,000, fell to 4,500 euros from 6,000 euros previously.

For the past couple of years, auto makers, especially in Europe, have struggled to find key components such as computer chips to maintain production in pace with demand. This mismatch between demand and supply is one reason auto makers posted lofty profits last year despite broadly weaker sales.

As the economy weakens, supply-chain problems ease and subsidies dry up, manufacturers could find it harder to maintain the high prices for new cars as they chase potentially fewer buying customers. This could result in a downward price spiral that potentially hits profits.

“Demand is likely to weaken in the coming year,” said Peter Fuss, an auto analyst with Ernst & Young. “The weak economy will cause retail and business consumers to be more reluctant. And it is possible that supply will outpace demand and we will begin to see discounts again.”

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A food-and-wine writer from the U.S. describes his annual pilgrimage to the Normandy Coast for thalassotherapy—a round of treatments that’s proven to be an antidote for his occupational overindulgence.

By ALEXANDER LOBRANO
Fri, Feb 3, 2023 4 min

AS A food-and-travel writer who lives in France, I face occupational hazards other people might envy: Think white Burgundies, foie gras, butter, cream and the world’s best cheeses. It’s a constant battle to avoid ending up with the silhouette of a pear.

That’s why in the years since I moved to Paris in 1986, I’ve become a fan of thalassotherapy, taking dozens of “cures” at some of the 50-odd thalassotherapy centres along the Atlantic and Mediterranean littorals of France. The word derives from the Greek words “thalassa” (sea) and “therapeia” (to nurse or cure) and refers to a series of treatments—heated seawater baths, stimulating jet showers and seaweed wraps—and exercise such as aqua gym (in-water calisthenics).

While these cures alleviate the fatigue and sluggishness I feel after months of late-night dinners and deadline pressure, I’ve found that a weeklong thalassotherapy circuit that includes low-calorie meals also contributes to a healthier, slimmer, better-toned me. Apparently, Plato believed “the sea cures all human ailments,” but my goal is simply to retreat, relax and, at the end, be able to tighten my belt to its customary notch.

A thalassotherapy experience can be completed in as little time as a weekend, but a typical stay lasts 5-7 days. A 6-day signature cure with room and board and four treatments a day costs about $1,580 at Thalazur in Cabourg, a well-mannered Belle Époque seaside resort in Normandy. It was there I booked my most recent extended cure in February, 2020.

I’d heard of Cabourg as a favourite escape of Marcel Proust, who stayed at the Grand Hôtel and, by his account, would gaze at the flinty waves of the English Channel while enjoying his favourite sole Normande (sole poached in cider with a rich cream sauce garnished with button mushrooms, shrimp and mussels).

The centre is a brisk 10-minute walk from the heart of Cabourg with its fan-shaped street plan spreading out from the casino and the Grand Hôtel. Even if my low-calorie regimen barred me from indulging in sole Normande, I never felt gastronomically deprived as I enjoyed a healthy menu with tasty choices such as freshly shucked Norman oysters and steamed salmon with spinach.

My pleasantly monastic existence found me donning a terry cloth bathrobe and slippers every morning and reporting for my daily program of five treatments. Administered by cheerful spa attendants in individual white-tiled spa cabins, these averaged 25 minutes each. While the seaweed jet baths were blissfully relaxing, the high-velocity jet showers, an attempt to pummel the cellulite out of you and improve circulation, were more of a “grin and bear it” prospect.

I can’t pretend I loved the wraps either: Slathered in puréed seaweed, swathed in huge sheets of plastic film and then covered with a heated blanket, I felt like I was being mummified. This detoxification process promises to rid you of “water weight,” and your parched skin receives a good dose of seaweed’s moisturising oligo elements, but I inevitably developed an itch somewhere I couldn’t scratch. Still, when the slick plastic was stripped away and I could shower, I felt hugely invigorated.

More alarming, I also endured cryotherapy. The attendants locked me in a capsule of dry air cooled to -230 degrees Fahrenheit for three minutes, an experience meant to improve circulation and increase production of cortisol, collagen, endorphins and adrenaline. The adrenaline rush, at least, was real; it was a profound relief to exit my capsule after being subjected to a blast of Arctic chill while wearing nothing more than black paper spa panties.

These morning regimens induced a languorous exhaustion, so I inevitably followed up the light lunch with a nap in the afternoon. Then, refreshed, I took long walks on the beach or bicycled along the promenade in front of the hotel.

Memories of my stay—and the 7 pounds I dropped there—prompted me to test the waters again last winter. I booked a 1-night, 2-day weekend sampler at the Thalazur in Port Camargue on the Mediterranean, an hour from my house.

This centre was smaller but also had lovely sea-views, plus my stylish sea-shack style room came with a large private balcony. The three treatments a day were excellent, too; the cost, about $178, was worth it for the belt-tightening.

When, on the Monday after my return home, I went to the single-window post office in my village, the post mistress raised her eyebrows theatrically. “Bonjour!” she said with a grin. “What happened!? You look great!” I went for a weekend of thalassotherapy, I told her. “Ah, voilà! La Thalasso fait toujours du bien,” she purred.

She was right, of course. I look forward to a week-long saltwater wallow this winter, maybe in Bandol with its views of the Mediterranean, or at the elegant new Relais Thalasso in the seaside town of Pornichet on the sunny Atlantic coast in the Loire region. Unlike at other centers, where you traipse about between treatments, the Relais Thalasso crew stash you in a spacious private suite with a comfy lounge area, the better to nap before another go-round.

Water, Water, Everywhere

France pioneered thalassotherapy but you can find excellent centers in other countries, too

La Perla, Spain

For the uninitiated, La Perla, a stylish centre in San Sebastián in the Spanish Basque Country, is a great place to sample thalassotherapy before committing to a full-on cure. Originally established by Spain’s Queen Maria Cristina, when she was queen from 1829-1833, at the royal family’s summer house here, the spa was rebuilt in 1912 on a site overlooking La Concha, a crescent-shaped beach. A 5-hour day pass gives you access to a hydrotherapy pool, water beds, marine steam baths and an in-water exercise circuit. Another option includes a massage and lunch in the spa’s restaurant overlooking the sea. From $49 for a 5-hour day pass.

Vilalara Longevity Thalassa and Medical Spa, Portugal

Vilalara Longevity Thalassa and Medical Spa in Lagoa, a city in Algarve, Portugal’s southernmost region, is set in lush gardens overlooking the Atlantic. It has two seawater pools, 20 treatment cabins and a variety of cures, including a 5-night detoxification program with 2 thalassotherapy sessions per night, lymphatic drainage massages, access to thalasso pools and a consultation with a nutritionist to personalise a tasty low-calorie meal plan or a liquid diet of anti-inflammatory shakes, juices and soups. From about $3,899.

Divani Apollon Palace and Thalasso, Greece

Situated on the Athenian Riviera, this world-class spa in the Divani Apollon Palace and Thalasso outside of Athens boasts the largest thalassotherapy pool in Greece with 16 different water jet areas in its expanse. The X factor at this family-run beach-front property with 25 treatment rooms is its healthy low-calorie menu created by the hotel’s chef and in-house dietician. Appetising proof that shedding pounds needn’t mean privation: the zucchini-crust Greek pizza with anthotryo (fresh cheese), cherry tomatoes, oregano and EVOO. From about $1,747 for a 3-day stay.

The Wall Street Journal is not compensated by retailers listed in its articles as outlets for products. Listed retailers frequently are not the sole retail outlets.

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