The Tesla Model 3 was the hottest selling new car in America in October, according to USA Today. Wait, what? The Model 3 is the best selling car in America? No, not quite. Here’s how USA Today created its rankings for October. “[The Tesla Model 3 is] No. 1 on our list of the hottest vehicles in the U.S. in October. To be sure, this list is not based purely on volume. If it was, the Ford F-series pickup would always be No. 1 since it’s the industry’s perennial best-seller. Instead, this list is based on a rather subjective but analytical assessment of sales volume, buzz and momentum.”
On The Sidelines Looking In
Buzz and momentum. Are they things that can even be measured? Maybe not, but they can certainly be felt in the marketplace and that is the real story here. The transition to electric cars is coming whether the rest of the industry is ready for it or not. Most traditional car companies are not, preferring to mouth the oft heard platitude, “Nobody wants to buy an electric car!” They’re standing around on the sidelines with their hands in their pockets hoping against hope this electric car thing is just a temporary aberration, one that will fade away soon and let them get back to business as usual.
Recently, the head of research and development at BMW said 85% of the cars his company sells in 2030 will still have a gasoline or diesel engine. 85%!!! To break it down further, he estimates by that date 15% of BMWs will be battery electric, 15% will be plug-in hybrids, and 70% will be good old build-’em-like-they-did-back-in-the-’50s conventional cars.
Knock. Knock. Hello? Is there anyone home? Klaus Froehlich, the R&D chief who made those stunning pronouncements, was at pains to tell journalists at the Paris motor show in October that he expects diesel engines to continue to play a significant role in his company’s product lineup for the foreseeable future. What he should really be thinking about is whether BMW will survive the coming tidal wave of electric cars.
At the forefront of that fast approaching tsunami is Tesla. USA Today says, “It’s getting harder to deny that the Tesla Model 3 has become a disruptive force in the auto industry. While Tesla does not report sales on a monthly basis, the company sold 55,840 Model 3 cars in the third quarter, which covered July, August, and September.
“With only three models for sale, Tesla outsold luxury rival Mercedes-Benz in the third quarter in the U.S. During that period, the Model 3 electric sedan was the third-best-selling car in the U.S., Tesla CEO Elon Musk said. With the average price starting at $49,000 in the third quarter, that’s stunning.”
The Best Of The Rest
What are the other cars that are creating enough “buzz and momentum” to make USA Today’s top 5 list for October?
2. Toyota Highlander — 20,548 sold, up 17.7% from a year earlier.
3. Toyota Tacoma — 20,534 sold, up 25.3% from a year earlier.
4. Subaru Forester — 15,981 sold, up 19% from a year earlier.
5. Volkswagen Atlas — 4,725 sold, up 29% from a year earlier and outselling the Passat.
Peering Into The Future
So, okay, momentum is a big part of the USA Today rankings. It’s a metric that is hard to quantify. We get it. But it does illustrate an important point. At a time when larger SUVs are dominating the market and legacy manufacturers are talking publicly about cutting way back on the production of sedans, the Tesla Model 3 sedan is blowing the doors off the competition.
Can you imagine what the Model Y — an electric SUV/CUV that will rival the Highlander, Forester, and Atlas — will do when it arrives in a few years and hopefully sooner? If executives in Detroit and Stuttgart are paying attention, they should be in full-blown panic mode by now. If the Model 3 can be so successful in a market segment everyone else is abandoning, what will happen when Tesla drops the Model Y smack dab into the middle of the SUV segment? If you said “chaos,” go to the head of the class!
It’s almost comical to see the legacy automakers rushing about like chickens with their heads cut off, longing for the past while Tesla continues to race ahead into the future. As Bob Dylan once said, “There’s a battle outside and it’s ragin’. It will soon shake your windows and rattle your walls, for the times they are a-changin’.” Boy howdy, are they ever!
Also see: 18 Nasty Tesla Charts