Tesla Model Y Was The Top Selling SUV in California in 2021

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It’s hard to believe, even as someone who has been placed firmly on the Tesla bull list for a decade, but the Tesla Model Y ended 2021 as the top selling SUV or truck in California! That is across all types of SUVs and trucks.

The Model Y outsold the #2 Toyota RAV4, a much cheaper vehicle. It also outsold the wildly popular Ford F-Series and Chevy Silverado, as well as the pickup truck that so many Californians love — the Toyota Tacoma.

Of course, that also meant the Tesla Model Y was the leader in the luxury compact SUV — by far! It had almost 5 times as many sales as the #2 Lexus NX.

In terms of cars, not SUVs & trucks, the Tesla Model 3 didn’t quite grab #1, but it was close. The Toyota Camry and Honda Civic took #1 and #2, followed at a bit of a distance by the #3 Tesla Model 3 (quite appropriate). The Model 3 was well ahead of the #4 Toyota Corolla and #5 Honda Accord, and those top 5 models were far ahead of every other car. The #6 Toyota Prius — once upon a time known as the car of Californian greenies (including Hollywood celebrities) — barely had half the sales of the #5 Accord.

Of course, the Model 3 isn’t a typical mass-market car. It’s a “near luxury car,” according to the California New Car Dealers Association, the source of the sales data referenced in this article. In that category, the Model 3 had more than 4 times as many sales in 2021 as the #2 BMW 3 Series. It had almost 5 times as many sales as the #3 Lexus ES. Anyone who thought a few years ago that sales would drop off after initial reservation holders got their cars have clearly been proven wrong. Demand seems to just keep growing and growing as more people hear about the car or open up to buying one.

It’s a similar story in the “luxury compact SUV” class that the Model Y plays in. The Model Y had nearly 5 times as many sales as the #2 Lexus NX. The bar chart above looks like it’s got some glaring issue. Even outselling the Toyota RAV4, though, this could have been expected.

Even the Tesla Model S got back on the scoreboard in 2021, ranking 3rd among “luxury and high-end sports cars.” It had 10.4% of that market. And recall that it wasn’t available for much of the year. Could it rise to #1 in 2022?

A couple of other non-Tesla electric cars made it onto the top 5 lists of their respective categories in 2021, most notably the Chevy Bolt EV. The Bolt EV took the gold medal in the subcompact car category. The real shocker in that category, though, was the 5th place sales result of the Toyota Mirai. What??? People are buying Mirais? I’m shocked, genuinely.

The last electric car to highlight is the now discontinued BMW i3. In its final year on the market, it got 5th place in the “entry luxury cars” class, quite a decent result for an aging, limited-range, tiny EV that has struggled to compete with the similarly priced Tesla Model 3 in recent years.


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Zachary Shahan

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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