Officially Official: Tesla Is Top Selling EV Maker In The US, Increases Sales Estimate For 2013

MAY 9 2013 BY JAY COLE 16

The Tesla Model S To Enjoy Another Few Months As America's Best Selling Plug-In Vehicle

The Tesla Model S To Enjoy Another Few Months As America’s Best Selling Plug-In Vehicle

Every month we dutifully report on all the plug-in sales that happen in the United States, and every month we have to put an (*) asterisk beside the Model S, as Tesla steadfastly does not report monthly sales.

Tesla Has Now Open 34 Boutique Stores, With Plans For 15 More In 2013

Tesla Has Now Opened 34 Boutique Stores, With Plans For 15 More In 2013

…except for 4 times a year.  During earnings season.

Yesterday, Tesla reported a much high than expected profit of $15 million dollars, on $563 million in revenue; with that last number being $63 million higher than the street expected, which means Tesla sold even more electric sedans that originally estimated.

Sure enough, the company said an extra 150 cars were sold more than the 4,750 that Tesla had estimated in early April.

Which means for the first time in 2013, the asterisk can die and we can report with a certainty that the Model S is America’s best selling plug-in vehicle in the first quarter of 2013.

Here are the sales results through March of 2013 for North America:

  1. Tesla Model S – 4,900
  2. Chevrolet Volt – 4,421
  3. Nissan LEAF – 3,695
  4. Toyota Prius PHEV – 2,439
  5. Ford C-Max Energi – 1,166

In fact, the lead is so great, we can pretty much guarantee the Model S retained its crown through April as well…although the asterisk now has to return once again.

  1. Tesla Model S* – 4,900 + 2,000 (+/- 300 units)
  2. Chevrolet Volt – 5,791
  3. Nissan LEAF –  5,680
  4. Toyota Prius PHEV – 3,060
  5. Ford C-Max Energi – 1,577

In addition to confirming sales numbers to date, Tesla’s financials revealed that the company forecasts production to ramp up even more than expected in the second half of the year, while also raising full year sales guidance from 20,000 cars to 21,000.

Which means Tesla is on pace for an easy win for ‘US Sales Champion of 2013’ right?  Sadly no.

Chevrolet Volt And Nissan LEAF Likely To Challenge Tesla For Top Spot By Mid-Summer

Chevrolet Volt And Nissan LEAF Likely To Challenge Tesla For Top Spot By Mid-Summer

While it would be a huge success story for the small, independent start-up to take the likes of Chevrolet, Nissan and Toyota out behind the woodshed for the balance of 2013, it is not going to happen.

For the US, Tesla has filled almost all the backlogged demand (the US reservation program ceased in Q1), and will turn its attention, and production, to European orders starting in June.

So how many more Model S Sedans will Tesla sell for 2013 in the United States?

For the second quarter the company says it will sell 4,500 EVs, most of which to the US, which may be good enough to hold down the number 1 spot.

However, far fewer plug-in Teslas will be sold in the second half of 2013, as cars are shipped overseas.  How much less comes to us via a timely quote on ZEV credits, with simple math filling in the rest of the picture.

“We expect (ZEV revenue) to decline significantly in future quarters, as ZEV credits will only apply to about 1/6 of worldwide deliveries, versus roughly half of US deliveries, and the price per credit has declined.”

Tesla CEO Address Crown At Geneva Auto Show Earlier In 2013, Guarantees Fufillment Of All European Reservations At The Time By Year's End (photo via cars21)

Tesla CEO Address Crown At Geneva Auto Show Earlier In 2013, Guarantees Fufillment Of All Current European Reservations By Year’s End (photo via cars21)

In the first quarter, Tesla says it acquired ZEV credits on 1 out of every 2 sales made in the US (for sales inside ARB states), and that for the rest of the year it will acquire them, at an average rate of 1 out of 6 sales.

That means that on the balance of the 16,100 further sales the company expects to bank, only about 5,500 to maybe a maximum of 7,500 more sales inside the US.

Which gives us around 10,000 – 12,000 in total sales inside the US (ex-Canada), leaving Tesla to battle it out with the Toyota Prius plug-in (and maybe Ford’s C-Max Energi) for 3rd place by year’s end.

Looking out past 2013, Tesla says “U.S. demand (is) expected to exceed 15,000/year; global demand likely above 30,000/year.

Regardless, of where exactly Tesla finishes on the US sales leader-board, 2013 can only be deemed a success…and we can still enjoy seeing them at the top of heap for at least a little while longer.

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16 Comments on "Officially Official: Tesla Is Top Selling EV Maker In The US, Increases Sales Estimate For 2013"

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Well done Tesla, but on a per capita basis these sales pale in comparison to the much reviled Better Place which has sold 423 cars in Israel Jan-April 2013. Adjusting for both population 8m vs 309m and 239 vs 440 cars per 1000 people, 423 cars in Israel becomes over 30,000 cars in the USA. Which, I believe, is more than all plug in cars of all types.

There were 18,000 plug-in cars sold in the US, first quarter of 2013. Not bad considering the size of our country & demographics. You could separate the country and look at states to cherry-pick better data. Speaking of looking at smaller countries…if you want to see large numbers of EV’s per capita, look at Norway.

Way to go Tesla!

It surprises me to see Teslas outselling Volts and Leafs (Leaves?), but well done anyway. I suspect with the lower price, American-made Leaf, it’s sales are going to rise dramatically now. So, to compete with the high end Tesla, and the mainstream-priced Leaf, Volt needs a price reduction sooner rather than later, and GM knows it.

And get the Spark out there, nation-wide, and cheaper than the Leaf (not holding my breath).

Is there any rumblings as to when we might get a first peak at the “Blue Star” Tesla? I think the Model S was revealed maybe 2 years before it was on the sales floor. I thought I remembered reading somewhere, (maybe I’m dreaming) but I thought it was said Tesla will introduce the “BMW 3-Series fighter” EV, otherwise known as “Blue Star” in the 2015-16 time frame? So that would put us at about 2 years from right now. My guess is Tesla may be holding on to that card until they need to use it. Like if they have a disappointing quarter or something.

Hey Schmeltz,

The “BlueStar” has definitely been pushed off 2015, reasonably speaking we are looking at late 2016 at best, more like 2017. Timing news was mostly just rumor until we starting getting hard dates on the Model X being almost 2 years out.

…then Musk took the twitterverse and confirmed it:

I thought I read somewhere that it’s 5-7 years out. I’m glad to see I was wrong! Sadly, my Leaf lease ends in 2015. It would have been great to jump straight to a “BlueStar”, but alas I’ll have to have another car in between…

Thanks Jay. So another 3 years or more for the Blue Star. That’s a punch in the gut but I guess I can’t fault them for taking their time to get it right. They’ve seemed to have found success with that approach on the Model S. And lets face it, there doesn’t seem to be any real competition in the near term anyway for the sandbox they play in. There are really just 3 players in the Plug-in world right now, the Model S, the Volt, and the Leaf. Toyota seems to be philosophically opposed to anything but a Prius, Ford has 2 good cars that they offer but don’t make, the Cadillac ELR will be a limited run vehicle, the Germans will offer expensive PHEV’s for the rich, Mitsu seems to be chasing their tail with this Outlander that’s coming, the Honda Accord PHEV is like the Fords…nobody can get them…


The main reason Tesla is delaying BlueStar is battery cost. Lithium Ion batteries will probably hit the price targets the Elon needs for a less expensive BEV in 4 years or so. Also newer technologies like Envia may be in the commercial stage by then.

I agree battery costs prohibit a $30k model in the near term, but maybe Tesla will decide that a $40K 200 real world mile 3 Series fighter can fly. They should be able to make one in the 3600lb, 60kwh range and hit $40k in 2 years from a cost perspective but it would be more 3 years for development and they would need additional capital now for development. I do think a model with those specs and similar curb appeal to the S could sell in the 50-60k volume range worldwide.

It seems mixing EVs with PHEVs distorts things a bit.

Tesla Model S will remain the #1 selling EV for 2013, with Leaf holding on to second place.

Chevy Volt will remain the #1 selling PHEV for 2013, with Prius plug-in holding on to second place.

Going by the article and what tesla has said I cant see how they can stay in front on the Leaf.

Tesla is up 1500, but if they are only going to sell about 10000 cars in the U.S. the Leaf looks like it is going to sell over 20,000. Nissan sold over 4000 in last two month with the new model

The Leaf is almost even with the volt right now, nissan may end up first this year.

Yeah, I second that. Musk mentioned roughly 15k to the US, 5k to EU, and 1k to Asia for this year as his best guess right now.

It is looking like LEAF will beat out that 15k number the way it is going. The Volt really needs something to happen to get it moving towards their 2012 sales numbers. The sales must be surprising GM right now (not in a good way).

It’s a no brainer, the $6000 price drop will push the Leaf out in front in terms of sale numbers.

If others are to compete, they’ll have to get their prices below $30k without the tax rebate.

The more EVs the better!

I think its more relevant if you multiply the price x units sold to see actual dollars spent towards a car design. At Tesla’s price, they are leading the pack not only by units sold, but total dollars vested by the public. I don’t know how long this will last, but at a price double+ of the Volt/Leaf, they only need to sell 1/2 as many. GM could slash the price on the Volt to generate more sales, but the net income may be the same.

So much for Tesla being a loser….