With little surprise and no fanfare, Tesla finished 2017 as America’s top-selling plug-in vehicle maker, again.

People already accustomed to Tesla’s out-in-front status may pay it less attention as a matter of course, and in light of the delayed Model 3 which should have plumped its numbers much more, but ahead it still is.

Its growth this year was also a bit less than in previous year-over-year tallies. The Model S actually fell back to an estimated 26,500 U.S. deliveries compared to 29,156 in 2016, which had represented a 15.7 percent increase over 2015.

The Model X was up however, with 21,700 estimated versus 18,028 in 2016. The Model 3, all new this year, added 1,770 estimated deliveries giving a total 49,970 units this year compared to 2016’s total of 47,184.

Next in line was General Motors, trailing by 6,094 units with sales by the Chevy Bolt (23,297), Volt (20,349), Cadillac CT6 PHEV (207), and a handful of leftover Spark EVs (23).

No other maker came very close, highlighting a tension between GM and Tesla which represents the old guard versus the all-in.

Notable is Tesla sells only pure EVs, and on that score, it is all-the-more ahead of all others, including GM.

Calm Before Storm?

The U.S. market, third behind Europe and China, still widely prefers conventional vehicles over plug-ins, with 84,246 battery electrics and 72,935 plug-in hybrids sold out of 17,465,020 total passenger vehicles in 2017, but this is due to change.

All major manufacturers are projecting significant additions to their rosters to meet regulations which Tesla, lead surfer, has been riding the wave of ahead of them, goading them along the way.

Unlike the majors, it has no conflict of interest in competing with gas-powered cars, and on the contrary, every vested interest to be gung ho for electric cars. Thus it remains ahead of others whose comparatively tepid efforts bely stated near-future intent.

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For its part on its aforementioned late goal, Tesla’s Model 3 is also expected to add to the rising tide this decade into next. Confidence however has leaked, as CEO Elon Musk over promised, under-delivered – again in its history, and again for this particular model.

The latest projection is a statement issued online Jan. 3 that Tesla will be producing 2,500 units per week by the end of March.

Should this come to pass, that could secure it top spot again in 2018 as no one else is trying to do that much, but some folks scanning the news are accentuating the downside to the narrative.

GM apparently likes surfing too. The Chevrolet Bolt EV has been coming on strong the past several months, finishing with 23,297 sales in 2017 after its staged rollout last spring.

Namely, earlier last year Musk had proclaimed 5,000 units would be coming off the production line in Fremont by December, and then in November he downgraded the timeline for this to end of March 2018.

By end of June, Musk says the 5,000/week goal ought to have been attained, and by then the world should be swimming in Model 3s.

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Challenges of off-the-charts cash burn, delays at the Gigafactory, and hopes for also-delayed Solar City products tamp down the desire to break out the champagne just yet, but Tesla is still number one.

Time Stamp in History

At this juncture, if Tesla is being chastened for biting off more than it can chew, major manufacturers can be congratulated for taking things at a more leisurely pace.

Thanks to its all-new Prius Prime, Toyota actually placed third in PEV sales behind GM and Tesla with 20,936 deliveries – less than half the number of the other two who sold above 40,000.

BMW, proud of its innovative engineering and construction of mass-production carbon-fiber reinforced plastic bodies in its i3 and i8, sold just 6,276 of and 480 of these respectively – both down somewhat from 2016. Adding 5,349 X5 PHEVs, 3,772 5-Series PHEVs, 4,141 3-Series PHEVs, 707 7-Series PHEVs, and it comes in fourth behind Tesla and GM with 20,725.

Fifth place Nissan, bullish earlier this decade with the first mass-produced EV, the Leaf, sold just 14,006 units – down 18.9 percent form 2015 – of the twice upgraded, holding on Leaf, as the new Leaf prepared for U.S. launch this year.

As noted, these and other brands are promising Big Things in the next few years, but Tesla is still out in front, and stands to be again in 2018, possibly also 2019.

And, assuming it does sort out the kinks in the production line, until further notice, it is Tesla’s game to lose.