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Tesla Model 3 = #21 Best Selling Car In USA. #15 In May? #6 In June Or July?

Tesla is one of the most popular companies in the US, so why wouldn’t it have one of the most popular cars, right?

Tesla is one of the most popular companies in the US, so why wouldn’t it have one of the most popular cars, right?

Well, of course it does — it got hundreds of thousands of reservations for the Tesla Model 3 on opening weekend.

The problem since reservations first started pouring in is that the company has had to learn to produce those cars at a massive, fast, efficient scale. Tesla’s been working on that and we’re starting to see a serious ramp up in production. In fact, based on monthly sales (technically, deliveries, but officially counted as sales in this context), the Model 3 is already one of the top selling cars in the country.

To be clear, we’re really talking cars in this piece — not SUVs, pickup trucks, or other behemoths of the road. We’re talking the Toyota Camry, the Honda Civic, the Toyota Corolla, the Honda Accord, etc. Behind those top four models, you’ve got some Nissans, Fords, and Hyundais leading the market. Here’s the full top 20 list and their April sales totals:

  1. Toyota Camry — 29,848
  2. Honda Civic — 28,399
  3. Toyota Corolla — 25,896
  4. Honda Accord — 21,751
  5. Nissan Sentra — 16,999
  6. Hyundai Elantra — 14,044
  7. Ford Focus — 13,001
  8. Ford Fusion — 12,871
  9. Nissan Altima — 10,400
  10. Hyundai Sonata — 9,616
  11. Kia Forte — 9,199
  12. Kia Soul — 8,825
  13. Subaru Impreza — 8,496
  14. Kia Optima — 8,276
  15. Toyota Prius — 7,420
  16. Ford Mustang — 7,125
  17. Dodge Charger — 6,632
  18. Nissan Versa — 5,998
  19. Dodge Challenger — 5,892
  20. Mercedes-Benz C-Class — 5,148

We don’t have a precise number for the Tesla Model 3, but Tesla’s graph on the matter in its recent quarterly investor letter seemed to indicate slightly fewer sales than the Mercedes C-Class. Perhaps 5,000? Perhaps 4,700? I’m estimating 4,777.

As you can see, 4,000 Model 3’s a week — or 16,000 a month* — could put the Model 3 in the #6 position. Tesla’s relatively near-term target (by end of Q2) is 5,000 Model 3’s a week, but that is presumably by the very end of June (not an average of the whole month) and there’s a decent chance Tesla could miss the target. Thus, a more reasonable average for June — or even July — might be 4,000 a week.

Let’s get really bearish and assume a disturbingly small 3,000 Model 3’s a week in June. With 12,000 cars for the month, even that would make the Model 3 the 9th “best selling” car in the United States. BMW 3 Series? Mercedes-Benz C-Class? Sorry, we lost track of you.

Will Tesla finally become a “serious” automaker if the scenarios above become reality? One would hope that would be acknowledged much more than it is today, but never count out the shorts’ ability to deny reality.

Rewinding (a word that seems to have gone out of style for some reason) to May, we could be conservative/pessimistic and assume just 2,000 a week — or 8,000 a month. That would put the Model 3 at #15, right ahead of the previous green car leader, the Toyota Prius. (Again, that’s based on using April sales figures for the other models.) That’s still a pretty shocking showing when you think of how far the humble electric carmaker has now come.

Our US electric car sales charts are going to look seriously out of balance, similar to how the French electric car sales charts are warped by relatively high sales of the Renault Zoe. Check out our latest US electric sales report for more on that.

In the meantime, check out the base prices of the top selling cars in the United States. Notice anything odd about how the Model 3 fits in there?

US Small & Midsize Luxury Car Sales

Car Base MSRP (ATM)
1 Toyota Camry $23,495
2 Honda Civic $18,940
3 Toyota Corolla $18,600
4 Honda Accord $23,570
5 Nissan Sentra $16,990
6 Hyundai Elantra $16,950
7 Ford Focus $17,950
8 Ford Fusion $22,215
9 Nissan Altima $23,260
10 Hyundai Sonata $22,050
11 Kia Forte $16,800
12 Kia Soul $16,200
13 Subaru Impreza $18,495
14 Kia Optima $22,600
15 Toyota Prius $23,475
16 Ford Mustang $25,680
17 Dodge Charger $28,995
18 Nissan Versa $12,110
19 Dodge Challenger $27,295
20 Mercedes-Benz C-Class $40,250

To close on a very serious note, the question is: If a Silicon Valley startup that’s barely a teenager can achieve such a showing, how is it that a large auto company can’t produce a more competitive electric vehicle? Why can’t BMW Produce an i3 or i4 or i7 that pulls in hundreds of thousands of reservations? Why can’t Ford produce an electric car that knocks the pants off a Toyota Prius in value for the money? What’s up with the “big boys” and why can’t they compete? Why can’t they put an electric car in the top 20, top 10, or top 5?

Admittedly, Sergio Marchionne and I have shared our opinions on all of that a few times.

*Yes, in every example, my assumptions shrink months to 28 days — but hey, they’re all just rough estimates anyway. 

Top photo by Kyle Field

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Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.


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