While Americans were celebrating Independence Day this weekend past, if it had wanted to, Tesla could have noted its contribution to energy independence with the 50,000th Model S sold since its June 2012 launch.
Just one month after the Model S also just traversed the 75,000 global unit milestone, it’s a safe estimate 50,000 U.S. transactions have taken place as the company had tallied around 49,720 through June, according to green car analyst, Alan Baum.
At its close-to-2,000-per-month average U.S. sales rate rate, over 50,000 units may have coincided with July 4th or not many days before or after. As global sales tracker Mario R. Duran notes, Tesla does not typically deliver cars in a linear way, but in any case, it can check off this accomplishment as it heads toward 100,000 global cars this year.
The electric car maker is also leading the two global cumulative best sellers, the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf in U.S. sales this year with 11,900 estimated from January through June.
The only downside of the story, observes Baum, is that overseas sales in Europe and particularly Asia sales have fallen short of expectations.
Because of this, and with production up and running in Fremont, California, Baum said this has led to higher numbers in the U.S. and to a lesser extent, in Canada.
“They were smart by adding different versions to keep demand going, particularly given the delay in Model X,” said Baum alluding to the all-wheel-drive Model S P85D and 70D introduced last last year and early this year respectively. “If and when Europe and Asia improve, then that will keep Model S going even as Model X launches. These are obviously necessary as they need cash flow to keep moving forward as their capital and operating expenditures are high.”
But Tesla has been defying the odds all along as it works toward a goal of providing cars for “the masses,” beginning with the Model 3, projected to start at $35,000 and offer 200-plus miles range.
The Model 3 has not been seen even in sketch form to date, and is due to come later than had been predicted by the company as far back as three years ago.
Also true is while $35,000 may be close to the average new car price (factoring all cars, even six-figure luxury models), some average-income Americans – i.e., the “masses” – may still not be putting a car at this price point on their shopping list ahead of many cars under $25,000.
Cars truly priced for “masses,” or lower than middle class socioeconomic strata, include used cars and budget priced models in the 20s and teens. What’s more, observers are projecting the Model 3 may just start at $35,000 and higher trim levels could push it to closer to $50,000 for option-packed examples.
But a $7,500 federal tax credit in theory slices the entry rate to $27,500, and within reach of many more car shoppers than would go for a $76,000 Model S, and state subsidies as available could bring it lower – maybe, says Baum.
“A potential problem for Tesla is that they may eventually reach the current ceiling for federal rebates, which is capped at 200,000 units per company,” said Baum.
Uncertainties aside, Tesla is making a run for it. The Model 3 is hoped to change the paradigm, and Tesla has said it’s gearing up to break out of relative niche status and head for mass production, with total car output across its lines as many as half a million by 2020.
Pivotal to this volume, the Model 3 is due to benefit from lessons learned from the Model S, not to mention its Nevada Gigafactory battery plant due to begin operations as soon as next year, but Tesla may not be alone by then.
At least Chevrolet and its Bolt EV and Nissan and its next-generation Leaf are planning to be competitors in price and range. Baum estimates the Bolt will launch early 2017, and the second-generation Leaf probably Spring or Summer 2017, although official announcements have not been made.
Meanwhile Tesla is quietly cruising past another milestone with 50,000 Model S sales. Its first 25,000 U.S. sales happened around March 2014, approximately 19 months after launch.
This next 25,000 – plus 25,000 exported to other markets – happened 16 months later.