By Zachary Shahan January 8th, 2018
With Tesla’s slower than expected Model 3 production ramp, the electric star of 2017 (in many respects) didn’t shine very brightly on the sales spreadsheet. In fact, it came in just below the Ford Focus Electric on the year-end sales tally.
However, it’s two older siblings — the Tesla Model S and Tesla Model X — appear to have led US electric car sales*. Yet again, these numbers demonstrate some of Tesla’s competitive advantages not because they took home gold and silver, but because they actually competed (very well) in their respective classes. Their positions at or near the top of their classes would be like the Chevy Bolt and Nissan LEAF being the top-selling small hatchbacks.
Yes, it will be a bigger achievement when the Model 3 ramps up and takes over a much higher selling segment than the Model S and Model X fit into. All in time.
For now, looking back on the sales, 2017 was actually a rather odd year. It’s a hodgepodge of vehicles on the top of the ranking. You’ve got the high-class, high-cost, fully electric Model S and Model X. Then you’ve got the small, unassuming, bland, but practical and packed with LG Chem batteries Chevy Bolt. Then you’ve got a couple of solid but different plug-in hybrids that fit fairly popular car sizes and needs (the Toyota Prius Prime and Chevy Volt). Then you’ve got the Nissan LEAF barely holding on before a refresh to rank above two more plug-in hybrids, but these less available and less compelling on the electric front than the Toyota Prius Prime and Chevy Volt (the Ford Fusion Energi and Ford C-Max Energi). And then you’ve got the super fun, but a bit odd (and expensive), BMW i3.
I think the story will look much different in 5 years, when the market will hopefully be mature enough that the classes of car on the top 10 list look more like the classes of car on the overall top 10 list (perhaps still excluding a pickup truck if no one can get that done before then). Of course, what would be even cooler is if 5 of the cars on the electric car top 10 list are also on the overall top 10 list!
*There are several automakers that don’t break out sales of their electric models (for example, sales of the BMW 330e are hidden within sales of the BMW 3 Series). As such, we have little insight into how many of these cars are sold in the US. Rather than guess, we exclude them from these monthly reports.
However, Tesla makes various statements about sales from time to time and offers some quarterly numbers, and Tesla vehicles are a more significant part of the EV market, so I create estimates based on every Tesla statement I can find as well as Tesla registration data in Europe and China. But do note that Tesla doesn’t publicly break out monthly sales and doesn’t break out country-by-country sales, so these estimates are definitely not precise.
Also published on EV Obsession’s Electric Car Sales page.