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The world’s largest automaker is starting to gain ground from Tesla.

Volkswagen sold 231,600 battery electric vehicles in 2020, according to figures released by the company on Wednesday.

While that’s still less than half of the sales Tesla made, it represents a 214 percent increase from the previous year and shows that Germany’s huge auto industry is beginning to challenge the electric car leader.

A worker completes the bodywork of an ID.3 electric car on the assembly line during a press tour at German manufacturer Volkswagen’s plant in Zwickau, eastern Germany. (AP)

“We are well on track to achieve our goal of becoming the market leader in battery electric vehicles,” Ralf Brandstätter, CEO of Volkswagen Passenger Cars, said in a statement.

Volkswagen’s most popular battery electric vehicle was the new ID.3, which sold 56,500 units.

Sales of the compact e-Golf and even the smallest e-up! they were 41,300 and 22,200, respectively.

Audi, the group’s luxury brand, sold 47,300 SUV and sportback e-tron models, while customers bought 20,000 electric Porsche Taycans.

Tesla has transformed the way the public views electric cars. (CarAdvice)

Sales of hybrid vehicles, which run on electricity and conventional fuels, also increased. Volkswagen sold 190,500 plug-in hybrids last year, a 175% jump from 2019.

“2020 was a turning point for Volkswagen and marked a breakthrough in electric mobility,” Brandstätter said.

Yet Tesla still poses a formidable challenge.

The company led by Elon musk It reached its goal of making 500,000 cars in 2020, it reported earlier this month.

Production and deliveries were up more than a third from 2019 levels, an impressive gain, especially considering that the company’s Fremont, California factory was closed for nearly two months due to the pandemic.

An employee displays a VW logo shortly before installation on a Volkswagen Touran in final assembly at the VW plant.
An employee displays a VW logo shortly before installation on a Volkswagen Touran in final assembly at the VW plant. (Getty)

It is building a plant in Germany after opening another in China in 2019.

Investors have rewarded Tesla by making it one of the most valuable companies in the world.

At $ 805 billion (A $ 1.03 trillion), Tesla’s market value is more than eight times that of Volkswagen despite the German company making roughly 19 times as many vehicles.

Volkswagen has said it plans to invest € 35 billion ($ 54.75 billion) in electric vehicles by 2025, and sales figures for 2020 suggest that customers are beginning to respond.

The e-trons have an electric motor on the front and rear axles. The powertrain and liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery have bag-type cells that store electrical energy. (Supplied)

The manufacturing giant intends to launch roughly 70 pure electric models by 2030 as it races to catch up with Tesla.

Other German automakers are joining the race. BMW sold 44,530 battery electric vehicles in 2020, a 13 percent increase from the previous year, and more than 148,000 plug-in hybrids.

Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz sold more than 160,000 plug-in hybrids and pure electric vehicles last year.

The power boom came even as the pandemic pushed back overall industry sales.

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Volkswagen Group sold 9.3 million cars in 2020, a 15 percent decrease from the previous year, but said deliveries fell just 3.2 percent in December as demand rebounded.

Volkswagen is trying to show that an automaker that a few years ago duped regulators into selling polluting diesel can produce electric vehicles that people want to buy and that lawmakers will adopt when tackling the climate crisis.

It is making significant progress in some markets.

In Norway, where financial incentives make most electric vehicle models cheaper to buy than similar gasoline models, the Audi e-tron was the 2020 sales leader, beating the Tesla Model 3.

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