This is a significant bit of news for the auto industry. For the first time, a pure electric car is at the top of global sales rankings. And it could only be a Tesla. Yes, JATO data for 53 markets worldwide, plus information for other key markets and estimates for others, indicate that the Tesla Model Y was the world's best-selling car in the first quarter of this year.
Back in August 2022, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced during the annual shareholders meeting that the Model Y would become the best-selling new vehicle in the world in 2023. Although the brand has grown very rapidly, it was considered an optimistic target at the time, given the high average price of this mid-size SUV.
But recent price cuts and Tesla's worldwide expansion are boosting demand for the Model Y. It was the third best-selling car last year, behind only two very popular names: the Toyota RAV4 and the Toyota Corolla. According to data from 152 markets, Tesla sold 747,500 units of the Model Y, a 91 percent increase from 2021.
The Model Y fell 244,000 units behind the Corolla sedan and 268,000 behind the RAV4. The gap between the two models has started to narrow as Tesla has continued to reduce the prices of its cars and the EV boom has gained even more traction.
Tête-à-tête Between Model Y and Corolla
Data collected for the first quarter shows the Tesla Model Y in the lead with 267,200 units sold. That's an increase of approximately 69 percent from the same period last year. The Model Y performed strongly in China, its core market, in the United States where it's up 68 percent, and in Europe, where it became the top-selling vehicle.
The Toyota Corolla is less despite sales figures including all available body types: sedan, wagon, and hatchback. The Corolla, which has been one of the most popular cars in the world for years, recorded downward-trending sales of 256,400 units. That includes a 29 percent drop in China and a 10 percent decline in the United States.
The current generation of the Corolla was presented in March 2018, while the Tesla Model Y debuted a year later in March 2019. The gap between the two is not that great, which means that anything can happen by the end of the year.
Three More Toyotas In The Top Five
It seems that Tesla has the wind in its sails because the Model Y is an SUV and it is electric, a win-win combination at the moment. On the other hand, the Corolla has the advantage of being a truly global product, being available in almost every country in the world. This makes it less vulnerable to any geopolitical clashes between China and the United States, for example.
The top 5 are filled out by three other Toyotas: Hilux, RAV4, and Camry. Both the RAV4 and Camry are designed for developed markets, while the Hilux continues to be the top choice in emerging economies. Presence in these markets, which account for a fifth of global vehicle sales, is the missing part of Tesla's expansion. Will we ever see a Tesla for these markets?
Note: The totals shown in this article are the sum of JATO data for 53 markets plus official data/forecasts for 31 other markets and estimates for the rest of the world.
The author of the article, Felipe Munoz, is An Automotive Industry Specialist at JATO Dynamics.