After completing my 2020 US Electric Vehicle Sales Report, it crossed my mind that it would be interesting to look at longer-term US electric vehicle and broader car sales trends. So, I found the data and have created 3 charts for you to enjoy and examine below. All 3 charts cover the years 2017–2020.
The first chart includes the sales of 8 electric vehicle models. (Note that this is not an all-inclusive sales analysis for the market, as several models are left out of it due to lack of public data and/or a negligent number of sales.)
That chart makes it hard to see the sales trends of most of the models since Model 3 and Model Y sales rose so high. So, a second chart excludes those two models and only shows the sales of the other 6 electric vehicles.
The third chart removes those 6 electric vehicles, puts the Model 3 and Model Y back on the chart, and adds the USA’s consistent 4 top selling cars, the “green car” that dominated before the Model 3 and Model Y came long (that would be the Toyota Prius), a handful of luxury car market leaders (Lexus ES, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, BMW 3/4 Series, BMW 5 Series), and the country’s top selling and iconic muscle car (the Ford Mustang).
I will add a bit of commentary under each chart. There are static versions of the charts on the bottom of this article since these interactive charts don’t show well on some devices (many phones), but because the interactive charts are so much better for these comparisons, I’m inserting them first. (Just get on a computer to read this article.)
The things I notice in this first chart are … well, the Model 3 and Model Y. Aside from them, it’s hard to see anything else due to the fact that the 3 and Y have such higher sales. Of course, another big thing that stands out is that Model 3 sales dipped down as the Model Y arrived and they almost touched noses in 2020. I think there’s no question the Model Y will win the matchup in 2021.
How much Model 3 sales dipped due to Tesla’s shift in production capacity versus a dip in demand is unknown. I would assume it’s a bit of both (market driven and producer/Tesla driven), and you also can’t ignore that any dip in demand would also be related to the availability of the Model Y — once the Model Y was an option, many buyers chose it who would have bought a Model 3 if the Y didn’t exist.
I wanted to have a closer look at the other electric models nonetheless, so I removed the 3 and Y from the chart. Though, there’s not much that’s very interesting to see or say here. I think the most interesting thing for me is that the Chevy Bolt rebounded a bit in 2020 after a few years of dropping sales whereas the Nissan LEAF saw its sales drop consistently and significantly from 2018 to 2020.
In this final chart, the biggest thing that stands out again is that the top 4 models consistently and significantly lost sales across the 4 year period — at the same time as the Model 3 and Model Y boomed onto the scene. Coincidence? Connection? I assume there’s a direct connection, but a regression analysis has not been conducted to prove the case or not.
Similarly, the Toyota Prius, BMW 3/4 Series, and Mercedes C-Class saw comparable trends from 2017 to 2020 — and these are potentially the top competitors to the Model 3 (and perhaps also Model Y).
But are the Model 3 and Model Y really pulling noticeable sales from all of these car models? Well, the buyers have to be coming from somewhere. Also, a few years ago, Tesla noted that the vehicles Model 3 buyers were primarily coming from included the Prius, 3 Series, Accord, Civic, and LEAF. So, yes, I think it’s hard to say that Tesla’s mass-market offerings didn’t result in reduced sales of these other models over the past several years.
Here are static versions of these charts:
Any thoughts on these comparisons?
Note that Tesla does not break out Model 3 versus Model Y sales at this point, and it also doesn’t break out sales by country. However, I make estimates for Tesla model sales based on many data sources, including registration data from many other countries, so I feel comfortable enough using these estimates for entertaining comparisons like the ones above. Hopefully Tesla someday starts reporting country-specific data and returns to reporting model-specific sales data.
- 2020 US Electric Vehicle Sales Report
- Global Plugin Vehicle Sales Up 43% In 2020, European Sales Up 137%
- Forecast: 2021 US EV Sales To Increase 70% Year Over Year
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