Just 10 years after the launch of the Tesla Model S, the California-born automaker has risen to #2 in the Golden State among all auto brands — for all types of car and light truck sales. That was Tesla’s ranking in 2022, only trailing Toyota. Tesla didn’t just barely inch out the silver medal either. It was well ahead of #3 Ford and #4 Honda.
The rise in the brand’s sales in one of the largest auto markets in the world is stunning enough. When you consider that it’s on the backs of just four vehicle models, and really just two (which are close siblings that many people can’t tell apart), it’s mind blowing. So, indeed, when we get to the model sales charts in a moment, some charts are going to look absurd.
Before getting to the specific models, though, there are a couple of brand factors that I feel compelled to discuss. First of all, there was Elon Musk’s very public scuffle with some politicians and health officials in the state, which led into a series of cultural and political matters that have spiraled into a truly shocking whirlpool of controversies and often misinformation. And, eventually, we know that Elon moved Tesla’s headquarters to Texas. Though, that always seemed a bit too narrow minded and risky. Tesla may have helped California a great deal, but California also built much of Tesla. There was the workforce, of course, which has made Tesla a manufacturing leader and an auto industry leader, but there’s also the enormous customer base, the state EV incentives that helped to create that enormous customer base, and the support of many state politicians and officials. And the tech talent in California is potentially unmatched anywhere in the world. So, it was not at all surprising that Tesla recently announced that its engineering and AI headquarters would still be in California. I don’t know if that’s solely because of the workforce, or if Elon also felt the need to get more positive PR going in California again. Who knows? Maybe we’ll find out one day.
Whether picking fights with California and Californians or not, there’s a question of future demand for Tesla vehicles in California. Has it peaked and will it shrink now? Will it hold steady around the current level for the next few years? Will it continue to grow? I don’t think the fighting and the cultural jabs help, but I don’t know how much they matter when most people are still just going to buy the car they think is best. It’s hard to say. However, all of that aside, there are finally more appealing, long-range, moderate-cost electric cars on the market, and the volumes for those cars is growing. Many Tesla owners are big Tesla fans. Many others, however, would be happy (or even eager) to get an EV from a different brand if only something competitive was available. Nowadays, for more and more people, something competitive is available, but the options are surely going to improve and diversify. As alternatives really heat up, will Tesla lose it’s dominance? It can’t remain ⅔ of the EV market forever. Will it continue to see its sales grow, though, as the overall market shifts much more to EVs and as it rolls out more models, like the Cybertruck and the low-cost vehicle it has in the works?
In short, all factors considered, where does Tesla go from #2?
On to the model rankings for now. …
First of all, in the overall list of top selling light trucks and SUVs, the Tesla Model Y was far and away the top seller. Similarly, in the overall list of top selling cars, the Tesla Model 3 was far and away the top seller. Looking at the top selling automobiles of any class or powertrain, it was the Tesla Model Y at #1 and the Tesla Model 3 at #2. That’s phenomenal — to have both the first and second best selling models in one of the largest auto markets in the world, and within just a few years after they joined the market. Not to mention the relatively high starting prices. The only concern: how sustainable is this kind of performance? Can the Tesla Model Y and Model 3 top the sales charts like this for years to come?
Naturally, as the top selling car and SUV/truck, the Model 3 and Model Y also performed very well in their class rankings. I’ll discus this further in a separate article, but for now, enjoy the charts.
How about the other Teslas? The Tesla Model S led its category, “Luxury & High-End Sports Cars,” whereas the Tesla Model X ended in 4th in its category, “Luxury Midsize SUVs.”
There were a couple other notable results from electric vehicles. The Chevy Bolt came in 5th in the “small cars” category, and the Ford Mustang Mach-E ended in the third position in the “2-Row Midsize SUV” category. (Yes, California has some odd vehicle categories.)
So, again, what will 2023 bring for Tesla? Can it repeat its #2 finish in this behemoth of a market? Can it climb to #1? What about 2024, 2025, etc.?
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