While it seems like everyone is focused on the number of $100 deposits that the Tesla Cybertruck has garnered, for me, what is more impressive is that an electric vehicle — the Tesla Model 3 — was the #3 best selling vehicle in California through September.
The California New Car Dealers Association recently released its California Auto Outlook report (data from IHS Market), which shows some positive and also surprising findings. Perhaps at the top of the list is the exciting news for EV advocates that the Tesla Model 3 was only about 300 units short of being the second best selling vehicle in California for the period of January to September 2019.
California has long marched to a different beat, with pickups like the Ford F-150 and Chevrolet Silverado selling well but not close to the top of the charts like they are in many other US states. Despite 70% of vehicle sales in the US being pickups, SUVs, crossovers, and vans, sedans took the top 5 spots in sales year to date (YTD) in California.
There are many anecdotes (including from personal friends in the market for a new Tesla) that a lot of Tesla inventory is headed overseas. So, Q4 remains a mystery for Model 3 sales in California, but the hot-selling sedan could end up as high as the #2 top selling vehicle in 2019, or could possibly drop down to #6. Regardless, even though we are talking about EV-crazed California, it is clear such a high sales ranking is still quite impressive and exciting news in the realm of EV adoption.
Nearly as impressive as the Model 3’s number 3 sales ranking is that Tesla overall ranked 6th for vehicle sales in California with a 4.1% market share. Tesla’s market share in California is nearly 3.5 times its 1.2% share across the entire US. While a lot can happen in the next two years, it is highly possible that, with the expected launch of the Tesla Model Y in Q4 of 2020, Tesla could surpass both Nissan and Chevrolet for the #4 spot in vehicle sales in California by the end of 2021.
While the strong California sales showing for Tesla is great news for electric vehicle advocates, the overall “electrification” sales trends are a bit mixed. Through September, the combined BEV and PHEV sales share is 7.9%, or basically flat over the 7.8% share for all of 2018. I and many others had forecast that California would be at or well exceed 10% sales share in 2019.
And while many observers have proclaimed that regular hybrids are dying, they are in fact seeing a resurgence as automakers bring more hybrids to market. In 2018, sales of BEVs in California had significantly surpassed sales of regular hybrids, but through September of 2019, hybrids have made a comeback and are slightly ahead of BEV sales again.
Overall, new vehicle registrations in California are expected to slip to 1.91 million units in 2019, a decline of 4.5% from 2018 to 2019. This would be the third consecutive annual decline. The California new light vehicle market declined 5.1% during the first nine months of this year, while the U.S. market fell 0.7%.
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