Tesla Model S Is Second Plug-in Car To Cross 150,000 Sales Milestone

Last month the Tesla Model S became the second plug-in electrified vehicle ever to sell more than 150,000 units worldwide.

Because Tesla does not report monthly sales, and only periodically reports numbers on a quarterly basis, the exact count through November is unknown, but enough clues are in to estimate more than 151,000 cumulative sales.

And – despite the Model S selling for roughly $70,000-$150,000 since its June 2012 launch – it has pulled off the milestone in only a bit longer time than it took the world’s best-selling, and much-cheaper Nissan Leaf to do the same.

Better use of space than as an engine bay.

Better use of space than as an engine bay.

The 2011 Leaf was released in December 2010, initially sold in the 30s and low 40s – and more recently can be had in the 20s – and took until November 2014 to cross 150,000 sales.

Tesla required just five more months than Nissan thanks to support from a strong fan base and a niche status allowing it to now account for a sizable 8 percent of all plug-in electrified vehicles sold to date.

The Numbers

Tesla announced 145,459 cumulative sales to date through September, leaving it two months to sell 4,542 more for 150,001 units.

A big chunk of this was achieved with 3,000 U.S. sales in October and November as reported by the HybridCars.com sales Dashboard which is a collaboration of this publication and Baum and Associates.

The U.S accounts for 57 percent of Model S sales, but notable is just our November sales estimate was quite conservative. We have seen others guess Tesla sold as many as 3,000 units in November alone, but we accounted for Tesla’s slowed November production as it began including Autopilot 2.0 autonomous hardware.


In any case, another 1,000 units are estimated from China in October with November China numbers not yet estimated. Additionally, October saw about 400 units in Europe, as November registration reports are also trickling.

So far, the European tally is 48 units in Norway, 52 in Germany and 36 in Sweden, and this brings the estimated total to 149,995 units.

Putting Tesla over the top is Canada’s October and November sales – estimated for now, but the country has bought on average lately 100 units monthly.

And then you have as-yet uncounted China sales for November, which means odds are good more than 151,000 units have been sold not counting units globally delivered last week.

Things Accelerating

Tesla has managed to increase the sales pace by keeping the Model S fresh. Technically it’s a four-year-old model, but a host of upgrades mean a new Model S can be faster, with AWD optionally, and Autopilot capability, among other updates since June 2012.

The automaker’s strategy has been enough combined with the fact the Model S is utterly unique in the world until major automakers who’ve said they are preparing their own luxury performance models get up to speed, assuming they do

By contrast, plug-in cars by major carmakers have seen sales go down just like typical conventional cars do when late in their product lifecycles. The Leaf still holds the record for more than 30,000 U.S. sales in 2014, but today is in limp-home mode in light of the 238-mile Chevy Bolt arriving this month, and expectations of Nissan’s Leaf replacement next year.

Actually a ton of other variables affect EV sales, not excluding decreased gas prices and increased choices, but meanwhile Tesla has stood above this fray to date, and its sales could continue to increase.

Tesla Model 3 prototype.

Tesla Model 3 prototype.

Growth is actually part of Tesla’s plan, which has set guidance each year for major increases – carried also by the less successful Model X – as it heads toward another major evolution in its life as a company: the Model 3.

That car, promised for next year, is part of plans to grow the business as much as 5-10 times over current annual sales volumes, but at this stage Tesla is the second-highest selling plug-in car maker.

Number one is China’s BYD, which in the last couple years has seen its Qin and Tang plug-in hybrids do very well on the strength of China’s burgeoning market alone.

This said, the Model S has greatly helped Tesla as it aspires to be the first major U.S. startup since Chrysler to survive in an industry that has seen downsizing, and offshoring, and whole legacy brands fold up in recent years.

The third-ranking plug-in car, by the way, is the Chevy Volt – and Opel/Vauxhall siblings – with 130,500 to date. It trails behind the Leaf which crossed 240,000 in September, despite starting sales the same month.

Now clearly above the Volt family, and gaining pace, the Model S continues to defy Tesla naysayers, and stands as a goad to major carmakers – which are ultimately chasing regulatory hurdles, alongside the Model S.


Clearly the Model S is the car most likely to have its picture affixed to corporate dartboards of executives for the likes of Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, Porsche, and others.

SEE ALSO: What’s Really Motivating Automakers To Build Electric Cars?

For Tesla’s part, it did not even issue a press release to celebrate its premier product whose sales have increased essentially in lockstep with its rapidly plummeting 0-60 mph times.

The Model S – which took three-and-a-half years to hit its first 100,000 sales in December 2015 – needed only 11 months to add another 50,000, and Tesla is not looking back.

Thanks to Mario R. Duran for help with data.

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