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Tesla Model 3 Was #1 Top Selling Car In California In 2nd Half Of 2018 — #CleanTechnica Report

The Tesla Model 3 broke multiple records across the US and even globally in 2018, but it rose higher in California than anywhere else. In fact, the Tesla Model 3* was the #1 best selling passenger vehicle in the state in the second half of the year.

The Tesla Model 3 broke multiple records across the US and even globally in 2018, but it rose higher in California than anywhere else. In fact, the Tesla Model 3* was the #1 best selling passenger vehicle in the state in the second half of the year.

California is often ahead of the game. Actually, it often creates the game. In the case of our electric transportation future, California is the first home of Tesla, which produces the top selling electric car in the world and is a key stimulator of electric vehicle progress, and it is also where many of the electric cars in the US are sold. Electric car market share of the overall car market is also much higher in California than in other states.

But the point that I think is more important isn’t that California is winning — it’s that California leads and others follow. California is there first, but your state will arrive at some point too. Your state doesn’t yet have 10% EV market share? Don’t worry, it will get there.

With that in mind, let’s dive into some fun new stats out of the state of California.

Data published this week by the California New Car Dealers Association indicates the Tesla Model 3 was the 4th best selling car in California last year, trailing only the Honda Civic, Toyota Camry, and Honda Accord (in that order). That position was not highlighted by the California New Car Dealers Association, but it also wasn’t hard to deduce from the data in the report, which showed the top 5 models in 20 different vehicle classes.

If you throw in trucks and SUVs, the Model 3 was in the #6 spot, also behind the Ford F-Series and Toyota RAV4 (barely).

Tesla as a whole also became the 9th best selling auto brand in California in 2018, but it was essentially tied with #8 BMW and not far behind #6 Mercedes and #7 Subaru, so there’s a solid chance Tesla will be #6 in 2019. It was also the brand that saw, by far, the largest sales increase (registrations increase, technically). The chart on the left below is actually deceiving, since Tesla saw a 258% increase and the chart only goes to 100%.

Source: California New Car Dealers Association

The data published by the California New Car Dealers Association was for 2018 as a whole, and it thus hid a few things that are perhaps even more interesting and more useful than the full-year data.

The last time the association published this breakdown of sales/registrations was when it published data for the first 6 months of 2018. If you do some simple math to tease out the numbers for the last 6 months of 2018 (the second half of the year), you can see that the Model 3 and Tesla as a whole looked even better (as expected, given that Tesla’s reported numbers — and numerous anecdotes from around the country — indicated a huge spike in deliveries in the 3rd quarter and then even more than that in the 4th quarter).

The Tesla Model 3 actually ended up being the top selling car in California in the second half of 2018 — er, the top selling passenger vehicle of any class.

The astounding thing about this is that all the other cars on this list are much more affordable cars. The Model 3 absolutely crushed its class competitors, scoring approximately 3× more registrations than the #2 Mercedes C-Class in 2018 and approximately 4.5× more registrations in the second half of 2018.

What happens when Tesla has the $35,000 Model 3 on the market? What happens when Tesla has Model 3 leasing available? What happens when Tesla sells a $25,000 electric car? What happens to sales when the Model 3 has full self-driving capability?

We’ll see.

*Note: If you recently ordered a Tesla Model 3, Model S, or Model X — before February 2 — but you didn’t use a referral code for 6 months of free Supercharging (or 9 months if you didn’t test drive the car), then you can still use my referral code — tomasz7234 — or someone else’s if the car has not yet been delivered.

Just send an email to (or if you’re in Europe) with the word “Referral” in the subject line. Then put your name, contact information, reservation number (starts with RN), and the referral code you’d like to use in the body of the email. (Thanks to Paul for discovering that.)


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Written By

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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