Tesla Passes 1 Million EV Milestone & Model 3 Becomes All Time Best Seller

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Elon Musk revealed on Monday that Tesla has just produced its millionth vehicle, a red Tesla Model Y. Tesla is the first of any automaker to hit the million-EV milestone. We can also safely estimate that the Tesla Model 3 has now overtaken the Nissan LEAF in sales, to become the all time best selling EV globally. In just 2½ years of volume production, the Model 3 achieved sales that took the LEAF almost 10 years.

Tesla Team -- 1 Million EV Milestone Tesla Team. Image Courtesy: Elon Musk/Tesla

Well done to all the team at Tesla for breaking through this milestone.

Let’s remind ourselves of Tesla’s volume growth over recent years:

Tesla Vehicle Sales (Quarterly Deliveries)

The step change in volume between 2018 and 2019 was due to the Model 3 steadily finding its rhythm in Fremont. This has now allowed Tesla’s top seller to quickly overtake the much older Nissan LEAF in total sales:

Tesla Model 3 overtakes Nissan LEAF© Max Holland / CleanTechnica

Nissan’s PR department has been particularly keen over the past 12 months to call out the LEAF as the world’s “best selling” or “most popular” EV. Even as recently as the 20th of January 2020 Nissan made this claim, citing 450,000 cumulative sales (without an exact achievement date), no doubt because they knew full well that was their very last chance to do so.

Tesla’s quarterly reports, meanwhile, had put the Model 3’s cumulative sales at 447,980 at the end of 2019.

Nissan has recently been delivering 5,000 to 7,000 LEAFs per month worldwide. The Model 3 over the past year has averaged 17,000 to 30,000 per month depending on seasonality. Even if we conservatively assume Nissan’s 450,000 was an end-of-2019 figure — and conservatively assume that in 2020 the Model 3 has been delivering slower than ever before — the title must by now be firmly in Tesla’s hands. And this is without counting the additional deliveries now coming from the Shanghai Gigafactory.

This is still just the beginning for Tesla. The Model Y, represented by the millionth Tesla vehicle produced (photo below), will eventually sell at much higher volumes than even the Model 3.

Tesla's 1 Millionth Vehicle -- Model YTesla’s 1 Millionth Vehicle. Image Courtesy: Elon Musk/Tesla

Tesla has officially guided for 500,000+ vehicles sold in 2020. Personally, I think this is highly conservative and can see over 600,000 being possible, depending on macroeconomic conditions.

At the same time, Elon Musk has also said he is aiming for at least 50% annual growth on average. At that rate, Tesla would be at over 4 million annual EV sales by 2025.


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Dr. Maximilian Holland

Max is an anthropologist, social theorist and international political economist, trying to ask questions and encourage critical thinking. He has lived and worked in Europe and Asia, and is currently based in Barcelona. Find Max's book on social theory, follow Max on twitter @Dr_Maximilian and at MaximilianHolland.com, or contact him via LinkedIn.

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