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The Elephant Model 3 In The Room

If you read any articles on September vehicle sales in the automotive, financial, or general press, they all have two themes. One is that hurricanes artificially boosted demand for vehicles a year ago — this is a one-month impact. The other is that people are moving from cars to SUVs — this has been going on for years.

If you read any articles on September vehicle sales in the automotive, financial, or general press, they all have two themes. One is that hurricanes artificially boosted demand for vehicles a year ago — this is a one-month impact. The other is that people are moving from cars to SUVs — this has been going on for years.

You can find examples in USA Today, Autoweek, The Detroit News, The Auto Channel, and elsewhere.

I won’t comment on the hurricanes, but I wonder if the narrative that people are just shifting from cars to SUVs and trucks holds up to a closer look. I took a detailed look at Toyota and Honda to see.

The Toyota car sales went down 23,205 from last year, but SUV and truck sales only went up 1,270. So, only 5.5% of the sales loss was captured by SUV or truck sales.

The Honda results are a little better, since car sales went down 13,693, but SUV and truck sales went up by 3,074, capturing 22.4% of the car sales lost — still not even a quarter, but a better explanation than in the case of Toyota.

The Elephant in the Room

Tesla doesn’t break down its sales geographically or by month, so we need to use someone’s estimates.

Zach Shahan, Director and Chief Editor of CleanTechnica, has estimated that 24,040 Model 3s were sold in the US last month, making it the 4th best selling car in the country. The Toyota Prius is the top car traded in on the Tesla Model 3, while the Honda Accord and Honda Civic are the 3rd and 4th most common cars traded in (as disclosed during the Q2 Tesla financials call). So, we know both of these companies’ customers are buying Tesla Model 3s.

Isn’t it interesting that nobody is writing stories on electric cars displacing gas cars, but everyone is writing stories on SUVs and trucks are replacing cars?

Car Sales — September
Base Price Today
Toyota Camry 27,640 $23,495
Honda Accord 25,357 $23,570
Honda Civic 24,806 $18,940
Tesla Model 3 (est.) 24,040 $49,000
Toyota Corolla 20,797 $18,600
Hyundai Elantra 19,923 $16,950
Nissan Sentra 16,795 $16,990
Ford Fusion 15,878 $22,215
Nissan Altima 11,867 $23,260
Kia Optima 10,976 $16,800
Volkswagen Jetta 10,631 $18,545
Kia Soul 10,540 $16,490
Hyundai Sonata 7,735 $22,300
Toyota Prius 7,378 $23,475
Ford Focus 7,195 $17,950

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Written By

I have been a software engineer for over 30 years, first developing EDI software, then developing data warehouse systems. Along the way, I've also had the chance to help start a software consulting firm and do portfolio management. In 2010, I took an interest in electric cars because gas was getting expensive. In 2015, I started reading CleanTechnica and took an interest in solar, mainly because it was a threat to my oil and gas investments. Follow me on Twitter @atj721 Tesla investor. Tesla referral code: https://ts.la/paul92237

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