It’s hard to put into perspective just how many purchases the Tesla Model 3 inspires worldwide. It’s sometimes hard to convey convincingly why Tesla is highlighted or mentioned on so many CleanTechnica pages. But there’s one general point everyone should understand by now: the Tesla Model 3 is in a league of its own. The Tesla Model 3 is far more popular than any electric vehicle in production today, and in some places is far more popular than any other vehicle. Monthly, quarterly, and annual sales of the Tesla Model 3 compared to other vehicles make that clear.
Demonstrating the Tesla Model 3’s unmatched consumer demand, new data from EV Volumes indicates that the Model 3 had almost triple the sales of the 2nd best selling electric vehicle on the global market in 2019. The #2 electric vehicle globally is a Chinese EV that is only sold in China. If you compare the Model 3 to the next best selling EV available in Europe and the United States, the Nissan LEAF, you can see that the Model 3 had more than 4× as many sales in 2019.
If you combined the sales of the #2 BAIC EU-Series, #3 Nissan LEAF, and #4 BYD Yuan S2/EV, the Model 3 still would have won! You can throw in the #5 SAIC Baojun and then you finally have a group of competitive electric vehicles that together had as much demand as the Model 3 in 2019.
When you consider that the Tesla Model 3 starting price has basically been $40,000 in the United States and more than that abroad (due to tariffs and shipping costs), the achievement gets even more impressive. Yes, the total cost of ownership of the Model 3 will often compare with the total cost of ownership of the highest selling cars in the world (like the Toyota Camry, Toyota Corolla, Honda Accord, and Honda Civic), but other electric vehicles have similar cost of ownership advantages (though, not necessarily the biggest advantage — high value retention).
The point here, like in other articles comparing electric vehicle sales, is not that other electric vehicles suck. To the contrary, I think there are many great and compelling electric vehicles. The point is to highlight that the global market considers the Tesla Model 3 so much better, so much more compelling, so much more exciting, so much safer, and so much of a better value that its sales are not even in the same arena as other EVs’ sales.
The question people have had for more than a year has been, “But how far does this demand go?” Or, said another way, “How many annual Tesla Model 3 sales is a sustainable, steady-state number of sales?” Many people expect to see Model 3 sales increase in 2020. Many people expect to see sales decrease. My personal opinion, as an owner of a Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus and as someone who has covered this industry and surveyed consumers for several years, is that the large majority of auto buyers have very little knowledge about Tesla, house superficial negative myths about Tesla and electric vehicles in their heads, have very little exposure to Tesla, and could quickly become Model 3 buyers with more exposure.
The question is how much they will be exposed to the car. I don’t know, but my guess is that the rollout of the Tesla “Full Self Driving” suite and other Tesla software, combined with hundreds of thousands of Tesla vehicles now roaming the streets, will sustain or increase 2019 demand in 2020, and certainly beyond 2020 — unless a larger percentage of Tesla buyers than I expect end up preferring the Model Y.
Any other thoughts on this leaderboard?
Before closing, there’s one more round of stats to share from EV Volumes. According to their tally, Tesla was the top electric vehicle manufacturer in 2019 thanks to 367,000 global deliveries. With an increase of 122,000 compared to 2018, Tesla ended up approximately 146,000 sales above #2 BYD. And this includes plug-in hybrids as well as fully electric vehicles. Another top Chinese automaker, BAIC, took the #3 spot with 160,000 sales.
For more on the Model 3 and why so many people are buying it, see our Tesla Model 3 long-term reviews (7 of our writers have a Model 3 and occasionally contribute review articles about the car) or other Tesla Model 3 news and analyses.
If you’d like to buy a Tesla Model 3, Model S, or Model X and get some free Supercharging miles, feel free to use my special, magical, unicorn-blessed referral code: https://ts.la/zachary63404. You can also get a $100 discount on Tesla solar with that code. There is currently no use for a referral code when putting down a reservation for a Cybertruck or Model Y.