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Is The Tesla Model Y The World’s Best Selling Car Right Now?

My answer is “maybe,” depending on how you measure sales and how last year’s leaders’ sales have increased or decreased. Since sales figures lag 3 to 6 months, we won’t know for sure until next year, but I’ll present the evidence I found and you can judge for yourself. The method I used is I looked up the top selling vehicles for last year and then researched those models to figure out what I could to estimate current sales. For the sake of this article, I’m defining third quarter of 2022 as right now, not the literal sales on the Saturday afternoon that I’m writing the article.

My History With The Tesla Model Y

I’ve been a fan of Model Y from the first time I heard of the product. At first, I didn’t even know why everyone was so crazy for crossovers, so I researched that and wrote this article. In short, people like crossovers because they sit a little higher (which helps people see the road better and helps older drivers get out of the car more easily), they have a lot more cargo room than a sedan and generally have a bit more ground clearance and all-wheel drive, so you can do some very mild off-roading. For these extra features, the cost is a bit higher, the fuel mileage is a bit lower, but they still drive (and park) more like a car than a big SUV or truck. It’s a winning combination and becoming more popular around the world.

At the Model Y unveiling, Tesla really downplayed how great the product would be to avoid hurting Model 3 sales, but I could tell right away that although most were disappointed that is was just a taller Model 3, it would be a huge hit — because the Model 3 didn’t need a radical redesign, it just needed to be a bit taller to hold more stuff and a third row to hold more people. This article that I wrote after the unveiling explained that I thought that the Model Y could compete with 8 different Toyota models (4 Toyota models and 4 Lexus models). I also noted how that saves Tesla a huge amount of development expenses.

My family owns two Model Y crossovers and I’d like to talk my other daughter into getting a third, but we shall see if that happens. My only complaint is I wish my Model Y had track mode so I could drift it more easily (I seem to remember Elon promised this is coming with acceleration boost, but I haven’t heard anything in a while on this).

Top Sellers For 2021 And First Quarter 2022

In order to find this, I searched for reliable sources of global 2021 data. I decided to use Felipe Munoz’s analysis of 106 global markets.

Top 11 Best-Selling Vehicles in the World in 2021, by Felipe Munoz. Source: https://fiatgroupworld.com/2022/06/13/the-tesla-model-3-hits-global-top-10-best-selling-cars-in-2021-full-ranking/

From here, I knew the top contenders were the Toyota RAV4 and the Toyota Corolla. It’s possible one of the lower ranking models (other than the Tesla Model Y) rose up to overtake those two leaders, but I deemed that unlikely in this environment. Global sales figures take about 2 months to compile, so the second quarter figures won’t be available till about the first of September, so the most recent global figures I could find were from Focus2Move for the first quarter of 2022. The first quarter of 2022 sales of the Toyota RAV4 were 215,000 and the Toyota Corolla were 275,000.

Estimating Second & Third Quarter Global Sales for the Toyota RAV4 and Corolla

In order to estimate Toyota’s sales for the second and third quarters, I read all the production operation notices on the Toyota website for the last 9 months. The picture I got from reading the notices is that Toyota would like to build more cars than it is able to. I’m assuming that both Toyota and Tesla are selling every car they make. From reading those reports, I estimate that sales in the second quarter will be 2% below the first quarter, and the third quarter will be 4% below the first quarter. This isn’t due to lack of demand, but due to production issues, mostly due to chip shortages, which are mostly due to Covid. So, my estimate for the third quarter is for Toyota to sell 206,400 RAV4 crossovers and 264,000 Corolla sedans. In addition, Toyota is refreshing the Corolla for 2023, which should increase demand a bit, but could cause some production delays. Demand isn’t really the problem, but production delays would hurts sales, since inventories are very low (for Toyota’s business model at least).

How Is Tesla Able To Increase Global Production So Dramatically When Others Can Even Match Last Year’s Production?

Tesla is making huge investments to massively increase production. Toyota seems to just be trying to get back to its record production of previous years. It seems to constantly complain about Covid-19 affecting its suppliers (as it has affected all automotive manufacturers to varying degrees over the last 2+ years). As Elon has mentioned many times, including in the Q2 conference call, Tesla has 3 advantages over other manufacturers in dealing with the supply change issues.

  1. For chip issues, Tesla has more and better software engineers and they have the ability to quickly rewrite software drivers that allow them to substitute one chip for another if the availability of the original chip becomes a serious issue. Tesla also uses fewer, more complex chips and runs many processes on them. In the current chip crisis, the modern chips have been less of an issue than the older designs that many others use.
  2. Tesla is more vertically integrated than most, giving the company more control. It can shift resources to some extent to optimize production.
  3. Tesla has planned for years to increase production 70% or more per year — for years and years to come. Tesla’s stated goal is 50%, but clearly the internal goal is much higher. Because of this and the fact that Tesla never cancelled any supplier orders (to my knowledge) during the Covid slowdowns over the past 2 years, and due to Tesla’s superior financial strength and reputation, suppliers are likely to favor Tesla over others. Assuming Tesla orders 90% more chips for 2022 than 2021 and suppliers only give the company 70% more, and because of Covid shutdowns Tesla can only build 50% more vehicle (as seems likely), Tesla would probably just store the extra chips (the company will need them before long).

Troy Teslike’s Model Y Estimates For Third Quarter & Fourth Quarter

I put this table together from Troy’s recent tweet (I subscribe to his Patreon, so I had these figures a few days earlier, but I can’t share them until he publishes them on Twitter).

Tesla Model Y Deliveries by Factory

Conclusion

The last thing to look at is average selling price. For the sake of simplicity, I’m just going to use the base price in the US. Although, I realize the ASP includes options and prices that vary around the world.

  • 206,400 RAV4 times $26,975 is $5.6 billion in Q3 revenue.
  • 264,000 Corolla times $20,425 equals $5.4 billion in Q3 revenue.
  • 224,344 Model Y times $65,990 equals $14.8 billion in Q3 revenue.

As you can see by my research above, Tesla is likely to be the best selling SUV in the world in the third quarter and the best selling vehicle of any type by the fourth quarter of this year. As far as revenue, Tesla is already generating about 3 times the dollar sales of these top sellers and that lead will continue to increase as Tesla looks to approximately double Model Y production over the next two years from today’s levels!

Disclosure: I am a shareholder in Tesla [TSLA], BYD [BYDDY], Nio [NIO], XPeng [XPEV], and Hertz [HTZ]. But I offer no investment advice of any sort here.

 
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Written By

I have been a software engineer for over 30 years, first developing EDI software, then developing data warehouse systems. Along the way, I've also had the chance to help start a software consulting firm and do portfolio management. In 2010, I took an interest in electric cars because gas was getting expensive. In 2015, I started reading CleanTechnica and took an interest in solar, mainly because it was a threat to my oil and gas investments. Follow me on Twitter @atj721 Tesla investor. Tesla referral code: https://ts.la/paul92237

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