With the public’s focus on Model 3 and other pending vehicles, and the Model S’ success already known, some may not have noticed, but Tesla’s main seller quietly sold its 200,000th global unit last year.

The car crossed the 200k line in the fourth quarter, some time in October or early November, and by December Tesla reported 212,874 sales.

In doing so, the luxury performance electric car first launched in the U.S. June 22, 2012 became the second to sell over 200,000 examples after the Nissan Leaf, which having more time on the market and costing less, just crossed 300,000.


A Tesla promotional picture from 2012. The Model S was the next step beyond the Roadster.

Otherwise the Model S, priced from the $70,000s to more than double, has continued to lead as an outlier being essentially the only car like it at this stage, and attracting a raft of fans to its refreshed-on-the-fly design.

In the U.S., the Model S has been the top-selling plug-in electrified car for three consecutive years. Last year it sold 26,500 estimated out of a list now up to 41 plug-in cars consisting of 16 battery electrics and 25 plug-in hybrids.

That achievement in 2017 was a few thousand deliveries above the next-closest Chevy Bolt EV’s 23,297. In 2016, the Model S topped all with 29,156, and in 2015 it led the board with 25,202.

Paul Newman Effect

Notable is the Model S’ ability to defy the aging process. In the automotive marketplace, a car ages faster than your pooch does in dog years, but going on its sixth year, it is pushing the limit for where a major manufacturer might be well along in developing whatever is to come next.

Current Model S with updated look.

For example, the Chevy Volt launched Dec. 2010 as a 2011 model had developed gen 2 by 2015. An exception that pushed this boundary was the other top-selling EV, the Nissan Leaf, which had launched Dec, 2010 as a 2011 model. Nissan nursed it along to fall 2017 with fewer upgrades than Tesla has given the Model S.

SEE ALSO: Tesla Model S Crossed 100,000 Sales Milestone This Month

The Leaf – as was true of the Volt – saw sales decline markedly for a couple years prior to replacement, but the Model S seems to age like Paul Newman has – more gracefully than most.

In addition to its being essentially the only game in town (or globally), Tesla has morphed the top-shelf Model S version into an amusement park ride capable of sprinting to 60 mph ahead of supercars and competitive with superbikes in 2.5 seconds.

This trick with 1.1g launch is great for impressing kids in the back seat who when they drop their cell phones in astonishment can easily retrieve them as they don’t fall far, but stay pinned by the g-force to the back seat for a short while. It also helps create excitement for buyers, even those who opt for less powerful versions.

That feature first of “insane” and then “ludicrous” speed had come along with all-wheel-drive for the car that had started life as RWD only, and 0-60 in a still impressive 4.5 seconds.

Autopilot, a facelift, and other over-the-air-updates have also helped keep the car with good safety record and an air of high technology the country’s most popular EV.

Worldwide Workhorse

Although eyes are on the Model 3, and a future Tesla Semi, Roadster, etc., the Model S is the company’s top automotive product.

In Sept. 2017, global Tesla car sales crossed the 250,000 mark, with the S carrying most of these, thanks in part to its being on the market longer than the Model X revealed in late Sept. 2015, but the S has also continued to sell better, period.

On the global level the S has actually been the top-selling plug-in car among all brands for two years straight. In 2016 it sold 50,931, and in 2016 it sold 50,446. For 2017, the Model S was second-best seller after a small EV from China called the BAIC EC-Series.

The domestically sold BAIC had 78,079 sales compared to 54,715 units reported through December by Tesla.

Last Year To Lead?

Another electric car is due this year to surpass Model S sales in 2018, and Tesla will be OK with it, assuming it happens. This of course is the Model 3, which missed overstated production targets so far.

Model 3.

Last year, after a ceremonial launch of 30 cars July 28, Tesla managed to deliver less than a couple thousand units by December when it had said in May it should at some point in 2017 ramp up to producing 5,000 per week.

Tesla has said it has “bottleneck,” and emphasized it is siding on “quality and efficiency rather than simply pushing for the highest possible volume in the shortest period of time.”

The projection has been trimmed for the first quarter 2018, but Tesla has a backlog of an unprecedented half-million sales orders. It’s expected sooner or later production will balloon as promised, with conservative analyst estimates calling for less than Tesla anticipates, but still more than 100,000 units by December 2018.

Company head Elon Musk has otherwise contradicted any notions the Model 3 will be essentially a bargain-priced, smaller-scale Model S alternative, and said the S will remain the range topper.

Unknown is when it may be fully redesigned, but at this stage it is doing relatively well all things considered.

Thanks to Mario R. Duran with help in compiling data.