I recently compared Tesla Model 3 specs to the specs of its top gasoline-powered competitors, but I didn’t provide comprehensive sales data at that time and several people requested such information. I was curious as well, so I dug it up and turned it into a couple of charts (find them below).
As I strolled through annual US sales of Tesla Model 3’s gas competitors, I started to wonder why anyone would buy any of those models in 2017 or 2018. Interestingly, their sales did drop ~82,000 in 2016 compared to 2015, and then dropped a further ~20,000 in January–July 2017 compared to the same period in 2016. My understanding is that one thing at play there was a shift to crossovers and SUVs, but it would be hard to assume the Model 3 isn’t already taking a bite out of its competition as well. Hundreds of thousands of reservation holders are eagerly awaiting their Model 3 deliveries and others are awaiting more reviews of the Model 3 as well as broad availability before plopping down cash for another premium sedan. That said, 504,000 sales of these 14 gas models is still a lot of sales.
Before I move forward, I think it’s important to realize that the Model 3 is surely also — to some extent or another — taking sales away from models like the Ford Fusion, Ford Mustang, Toyota Camry, Toyota Prius, Honda Civic, Honda Accord, etc. However, to keep things in the same court, I’m ignoring those “non-premium” models for the rest of this article. Additionally, I’m ignoring some more expensive premium car models that I think the Model 3 will steal sales from (like the BMW 5 Series and Audi A6), since those are also technically out of the Model 3’s arena. And I’m ignoring other electric cars like the BMW i3, Chevy Bolt, and Nissan LEAF. I actually have a slight hunch (or hope) that sales of those models will rise thanks to the growing awareness of electric cars that Tesla Model 3 brings to the market, but either way, my interest is more in what the Model 3 does to the gasoline car market than sales of electric competitors, and I already publish monthly electric car sales reports anyway.
Rather than just set you free with the data, though, I thought I’d have a little fun. If you go below the charts, you can read “my take” on why someone would buy each of these gasoline-chugging models in 2017 or 2018. (Trolls, beware! I’m enjoying a little lighthearted trolling myself in this one.)
Why To Buy These Cars In 2018
Acura ILX — If you want your car to look at itself in the mirror in the middle of a country highway, this is the car for you. It’s not narcissistic. It’s just a deeply philosophical car that needs some introspection from time to time. By the way, it’s also slower than a Model 3, has less cargo space, is much less efficient, has less headroom, has less shoulder room, has less legroom, and doesn’t have Tesla’s navigation screen and Autopilot hardware. But no bother — those things are for kids.
Acura TLX — You like red seats that say “sporty,” and don’t mind that the car isn’t actually that quick and doesn’t have the benefit of smooth, powerful, instant electric torque. Maybe you’re not as reflective as your brethren in the ILX, but you’re cool — that’s for sure!
Audi A3 — Not top of the class but also not in detention every day. Perhaps the mouth is too big for the brain, but I’m having fun! The A3 may be a full second slower than a Tesla Model 3. It may have less cargo space. It may emit a soiled aroma like an Alabaman peanut farmer at the State Fair. But it had a “3” in its name before Model 3 was even born — that’s what’s important. Legacy. Heritage. Decades of refining the NOx box. (Full disclosure: This and the BMW Z3 were on the top of my car list when I was 19.)
Audi A4 — Ah, you’ve grown up. Time to move on from your youthy days in an A3. This is the next step, the next level. It will show your family and friends you’ve arrived. Be there. Do it. Park it in your shiny yet dark warehouse-like office building. Just don’t forget to turn off the engine so you don’t choke.
Audi A5 — You’ve gotten too big for your bootstrapped lifestyle while climbing the corporate ladder. You’re now a titan of multinational sales speak and spreadsheets. You park on simulations of real life. You eat human underlings for brunch. Green? Who needs green? This car tells people that you mean business, yet also like to let loose on weekend, watch sitcoms in the evenings, and occasionally playing squash with your similarly accomplished upper middle class industry leaders — the people who really keep the modern global economy running. Who needs a Tesla? Wait, what’s a Tesla?
BMW 2 Series — For a slightly more daring and sportier crowd, this car can rumble to 100 km/h in a nearly class-leading 5.3 seconds. Second place means less hassle with the spotlight anyway. Who wants to be #1? This car tells people, “I was the automotive leader of the 20th century … but then I got old and didn’t feel like chasing the young kids any more.” It says, “I’m sportier than my secretary and hairdresser think … but I’m not wild and crazy like those Tesla fanatics.” Yes, refined, but with the security of an old-school internal combustion engine joggling under the hood, since I’m not ready for my car to be a computer on wheels just yet.
BMW 3 Series — Sporty? Sort of, but I prefer to out-accountant the Tesla and BMW 2 Series drivers who love darting off the line. I’m too sophisticated to pull out a charging cord. I prefer a sometimes sticky gas pump. Tesla is for idealistic dreamers who don’t know what the real world is like. And anyway, doesn’t that lunatic CEO want to go to Mars? Can’t trust that company to service my car well.
BMW 4 Series — I’m a minimalist when I want to be, but I need my buttons, knobs, and dials — this ain’t The Jetsons! I’d like to help the environment, but I can’t be bothered — people have to see me as normal, stable, mature. I’m too busy. Habits are there for a reason — to protect us from falling off a cliff or burning down our house. An electric car may be in some people’s future, but not mine. I’m too realistic. I’ve accomplished a lot and am ready to reap the rewards without venturing too far from vanilla ice cream and summers on an upper-class beach away from the hipsters and dirty masses.
Jaguar XF — I like style. More than I should? Yes. But life is to be lived, and screw future generations. So the Model 3 has cooler tech, smoother and quicker acceleration, and a cleaner footprint? That’s neat, but not what I care about. I’m all about the superficial — book covers, pretty faces, classic grilles. Zero emissions are for people who stress too much and think too seriously. (That crap makes me too nervous to admit.)
Lexus ES — I’m green, you know? This is a hybrid. It’s the electric model. It’s not a Toyota — I’ve worked too long and too hard to settle for stale bread. I’m progressive, but I don’t have time to look into life with an electric car, and the batteries are dirtier anyway, aren’t they? Check with me in 10 years when it makes more sense. I need to go drive through some hula hoops now.
Lexus IS — Yes, I’m slow, but I’m not a racer. I like to cruise … but not with questionably cutting-edge autonomous driving technology. Don’t get me wrong — I don’t drive a Toyota Corolla — but I prefer to wait and see. Jumping in is for teenagers, not real adults who work in silver buildings.
Mercedes C-Class — The epitome of refined. I’ve arrived. This is the finish line. Sure, I don’t have an S-Class, but those people are snotty anyway. A Tesla? Ha? What sensible and sophisticated person would jump into that? Too fast. Too techy. The company is a Silicon Valley smoke & mirrors campaign destined to crash & burn once everyone wakes up. I’ll take the safe road. The climate isn’t stable? Well, someone will solve it in the future. Humans are ingenuitive. Just look at me — I worked my way up the corporate power structure from an entry-level position, jumping through all the right hoops at the right time.
Mercedes CLA — I’m sporty yet refined. 0–60 time? Well, that doesn’t matter. Tesla? I think I heard about them. Don’t they do the drag races, or have giant, obtrusive computers inside? I think my friend has one, but he’s a weirdo.
Mercedes E-Class — This is all I need right here. Fun and fast is not for me. Complicated touchscreens? Heck no. Revolutions? Not today. Climate change? That’s for my grandkids to worry about. New assisted driving features? Mercedes has them all — I hear they’re the best. A Tesla Model 3? What’s that? Is it better than an Apple iPad?
If you missed it before, check out our detailed comparison of Model 3 specs and the specs of its chief gas competitors for a more serious look. Below’s the core table.
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