Never mind that Tesla’s luxury performance EV sells for two-to-four times as much as the next closest selling green cars in the U.S., demand in March was exceedingly high.
According to the HybridCars.com monthly Dashboard sales estimate, around 3,000 were sold of the Tesla sedan, not to mention 1,500 of the Model X crossover.
Update: Tesla does not normally announce monthly sales, and our estimate of 3,400 was 400 units higher when this was written this morning. It’s since been adjusted after Tesla did announce end of quarter numbers. That was enough to push it from second to third place behind the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid’s 3,073 units in March. All else in this story is otherwise still applicable.
This was the final month of the first quarter, so characteristically Tesla did push out more than usual, but its 3,000 or so S models was bested only by the Toyota Prius Liftback out of more than 75 alternative-energy cars sold in the U.S.
“Alternative-energy” cars are other than those powered purely by internal combustion gas engines. The traditionally acknowledged pioneer in this class which gave rise to plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles was hybrids which rely on electric propulsion merged with internal combustion power.
Now with 16 years on the U.S. market and in its fourth generation, the Prius full hybrid has long dominated the green car market, and its 8,130 sales in March – while down 14.3 percent year over year – are not surprisingly much higher than any other.
Number three in the entire U.S. green car market was the Toyota Prius c, with 2,057 sales. The Hybridars.com dashboard does also count eco diesel pickups, and the Ram diesel did sell 4,729, but not being a “car,” (or crossover or SUV) we’re excluding it in this comparison.
Among plug-in vehicles, Tesla towered over the aging Nissan Leaf’s 1,246 sales, and the Chevy Volt’s 1,865.
Why this state of affairs exists is a deep analysis and people will disagree on details. Safe to say is the hybrid market is down 14.6 percent year over year with cheap gas affecting demand.
The Model S is pricey from the low 70s to more than twice that, but its specs have been meaningfully revised.
The one other plug-in car that was also fully redesigned is the Chevy Volt, but to date the extended-range EV, despite being a useful vehicle with 53 miles EV range and starting just under $35,000 before tax credit or incentives, has not mustered the interest the Tesla has.
Tesla’s larger, roomier car is quick to blazing fast depending on trim. It is sleek with Euro style from the U.S. start-up and is being bought for its exclusivity, not to mention electric drive from the company that presents itself as much a mission as a manufacturer.
“I want to start, just preface this by talking about Why? Why are we doing this?” posed CEO Elon Musk at the Model 3 reveal last week. “Why does Tesla exist? Why are we making electric cars? Why does it matter? It’s because its very important to accelerate the transition to sustainable transport. This is really important for the future of the world.”
Tesla’s “disruptive” effort has for a host of reasons managed to garner a cool factor that offerings from the majors have yet to fully do.
All cars have their fans, but the numbers do not lie. Tesla was second only to the incumbent hybrid, and among plug-in vehicle sales last month, nothing came close.