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Tesla Model 3 = 9th Best Selling Car In USA

With all of the data tallied, we have one electric car in the top 20*, or in the top 10 actually — the Tesla Model 3. The Model 3, based on our estimates (with support from EV Volumes), lands in the #10 spot in the USA in November among all cars. For the first 11 months of the year, the Model 3 was in the #9 position.

We don’t have November US sales data from Ford, Chevy, or Dodge, since US automakers no longer publish monthly sales data, but if we estimate the same monthly sales for their top models as they had on average in the third quarter of 2019, we can come up with a full top 20 list of the best selling cars in the country.

With all of the data tallied, we have one electric car in the top 20*, or in the top 10 actually — the Tesla Model 3. The Model 3, based on our estimates, lands in the #10 spot in the USA in November among all cars. For the first 11 months of the year, the Model 3 was in the #9 position.

As noted in previous sales reports, the astonishing thing here is that the Tesla Model 3 has a notably higher upfront price than other models on these lists. In the long run, that can be offset by lower operational costs and higher resale value, but most consumers do not consider such matters and are unable to go above a certain upfront price and monthly financing cost.

Among other things, the Model 3’s ranking so high on the US car market seems to show the tremendous value for the money that comes with a Tesla Model 3. (Full disclosure: I have a Model 3 and bought it due to my own value-for-the-money calculations, which I thought made it a no-brainer**.)

As shown more clearly in our report on premium-class car sales in the USA, the Model 3 is in a whole other league from the rest of the market. In fact, even if you combine all small & midsize car models from other luxury automakers, the Tesla Model 3 comes out on top.

So, it is not surprising that the Tesla Model 3 is the 9th best selling car in the United States so far this year. It has been in the top 10 nearly all year. Nonetheless, this remains an impressive feat, especially for a premium-class car. Furthermore, what is perhaps most “newsworthy,” is that consumer demand has not died off. When we initially reported on explosive, record-shattering Model 3 sales more than a year ago, Tesla critics and skeptics argued that all of those sales were from pent-up demand and sales would soon fall off a cliff. They predicted such doom after the third quarter of 2018, after the fourth quarter of 2018, after the first quarter of 2019, after the second quarter of 2019, and most recently after the third quarter of 2018. November sales show that, despite very high deliveries abroad (for example, in the Netherlands), Model 3 demand and deliveries in the USA remain very strong.

December, as usual, is expected to be a big month for deliveries for Tesla, but it’s unlikely we’ll see the Model 3 rise from its 2019 position at #9. It appears there’s too much ground for the Model 3 to cover to catch up to the #8 Hyundai Elantra (which I’m honestly shocked is anywhere near the top 10, but I guess that’s the norm in this low-cost, high-volume segment of the market that dominates the top 10).

We’ll see what happens in 2020. Unless something changes with US legislation on the federal EV tax credit (possible but unlikely), Tesla Model 3 buyers will lose the ability to get an $1,875 tax credit on their purchase. That said, it’s unclear how many Americans are aware of this tax credit and it’s unlikely this has a strong effect on sales at this time since there’s been a long phaseout period and the tax credit used to be much higher.

Our own research indicates that a large portion of non-Tesla EV owners plan to buy a Model 3 next. It also indicates that 20% of Tesla buyers compared their car to a gasoline or diesel vehicle before deciding on their purchase. If word of mouth continues to grow strongly as tens of thousands of new owners get a Tesla each quarter, one would assume that consumer demand would remain strong until much more of the car market has shifted to the Model 3. Again, the basic value-for-the-money proposition seems too compelling for model demand to go in the other direction.

Many of us assumed the Model 3 could rise to the #1 position in the US car market, or at least get very close to #1. When it comes to sales revenue, the Model 3 has indeed been dominating the #1 position, but it has struggled to break into the top 4 in terms of unit sales, long the playing ground of the Toyota Camry, Toyota Corolla, Honda Accord, and Honda Civic. Perhaps in 2020?

Of course, all of these feats are without any traditional paid advertising (TV commercials, print and online media ads, etc.). Imagine if Tesla ran ads and had more production capacity.

Special thanks to EV Volumes for support with this report.

*Technically, there’s an electric version of the Hyundai Kona and an electric version of the Kia Soul, but their sales are minimal and just a tiny portion of these models’ overall US sales. Also, you can’t find one in most states.

**If you’d like to buy a Tesla Model 3, Model S, or Model X and want 1,000 miles of free Supercharging, feel free to use my referral code: — or use someone else’s if you have a friend or family member with a Tesla who has helped you more. The referral code can also be used for a $100 discount on Tesla solar. The referral code doesn’t yet provide any benefit to people pre-ordering a Tesla Cybertruck or Model Y.


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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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