Tesla Model 3 Expanding U.S. Plug-In Market Not Cannibalizing It

Chevy Bolt, Model 3, Nissan Leaf


U.S. Plug-In sales continue to grow with and without Tesla

In the broader automotive industry, sales for most automakers in 2018 have been flat or down for 2018 year to date. Through September, Toyota sales are down 0.4%, General Motors is down 1.2%, Honda is down 2.0%, Ford is down 2.4%, and Mercedes-Benz is down 5.8%.

FCA and BMW deliveries buck the general trends by being up 6.0% and 1.7% respectively thanks to strong SUV/Light Truck sales.

The outlook is much brighter here on electric avenue. In the plug-in market, a true undisputed market leader has emerged that goes against the grain. Tesla Model 3 deliveries shot to the top 5 of sedan sales in Q3. The luxury electric sedan is now selling at quantities comparable to mainstream vehicles.

So with the lull in the general automotive market, the dominance of the Model 3, and popularity of Crossovers, SUVs and Trucks: shouldn’t non-Tesla U.S. plug-in sales be similarly down year over year?

Interestingly, no.US plug-in sales are growing rapidly with the Tesla Model 3

Plug-in sales from traditional automakers keep growing in the face of industry downturn

So far in 2018, battery electric (BEV) and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) sales are up ~64.9% based on estimates by InsideEVs. The majority of this uptick can be attributed directly to Tesla. Estimated Tesla deliveries are up 224.7% YTD. Thanks entirely to the Model 3’s record shattering 78,132 deliveries through September.

Other automakers have continued to increase their buyers as well, albeit at a slower pace. Even taking Tesla completely out of the picture, non-Tesla deliveries sit at an estimated 120,533 through Q3. This is up 12.5% YTD over 2017’s 107,084.Even without Tesla sales, the EV market continues to grow

So the Model 3 is reaching a significant number of new EV buyers. Tesla is not merely cannibalizing the sales of existing electric vehicle offerings.

Still, a mere 5 automakers enjoy nearly 80% of the U.S. plug-in market. Tesla is the big dog with ~48.6% of the market. GM (~10.8%) and Toyota (~8.7%) currently wear the silver and bronze. BMW (~6.4%) and Honda (~5.3%) round out the top 5 of plug-in market share. Plug-ins have reached 1.8% market share so far this year and 3.1% for September.

Heading into Q4 there is a lot to be excited about. Model 3 production finally hit its stride last quarter. Chevy Bolt EV inventories are finally recovering, shooting up 2,000 units in just over a month as the Detroit automaker increases production for the 2019 model year. The Chevy Volt is seeing new life with a mid-cycle refresh and the Prius Prime and Honda Clarity continue to perform quite well. 300,000 deliveries is inevitable at this point.

According to Tesla, their mission is to “accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.” They certainly seem to be succeeding in that. Not only is Tesla expanding, but the entire EV market is continuing to grow while the ICE auto market is slowing down.


33 photos
2. Tesla Model 3
Range: 310 miles; 136/123 mpg-e. Still maintaining a long waiting list as production ramps up slowly, the new compact Tesla Model 3 sedan is a smaller and cheaper, but no less stylish, alternative, to the fledgling automaker’s popular Model S. This estimate is for a Model 3 with the “optional” (at $9,000) long-range battery, which is as of this writing still the only configuration available. The standard battery, which is expected to become available later in 2018, is estimated to run for 220 miles on a charge. Tesla Model 3 charge port (U.S.) Tesla Model 3 front seats Tesla Model 3 at Atascadero, CA Supercharging station (via Mark F!) Tesla Model 3 Tesla Model 3 The Tesla Model 3 is not hiding anymore! Tesla Model 3 (Image Credit: Tom Moloughney/InsideEVs) Tesla Model 3 Inside the Tesla Model 3 Tesla Model 3 rear seats Tesla Model 3 Road Trip arrives in Tallahassee Tesla Model 3 charges in Tallahassee, trunk open.

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33 Comments on "Tesla Model 3 Expanding U.S. Plug-In Market Not Cannibalizing It"

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Plug-In models are becoming more and more generally accepted as a viable means of transportation.

Now it’s one of the options to choose from (although the majority of people still choose ICE). Some people do include Plug-In models on their short list.

This will continue to spread out, and it will actually become more and more normal to choose a Plug-In model as the next car to buy. Because more and more people will see more and more Plug-In models in their streets.

In the past Plug-In models weren’t even considered to be an option. That has changed.

TM3x2 Chris

I would say that plug-ins are going from undesirable to preferred really fast. Rising oil prices will only accelerate this trend.


I’m not seeing that in the data and in the discourse. In the US I’m seeing lots of desire for Tesla Model 3, and near-complete lack of interest in any other BEV. PHEVs are less affected.
Strangely enough, the automotive press is in fact very sympathetic to the Chevy Bolt, but that doesn’t translate into any sort of mainstream-culture interest.


Please Trump make an ass of yourself against OPEC




I think the things driving that the most are greater availability and lower pricing of long range EVs as well as expanding infrastructure supporting fast charging.


3.1% of the light duty automotive market is plug in this month. That is huge. We are getting to the point where plug in cars are going to impacting on the US demand for oil in a slight but real manner. The bad part is that our NOT buying gasoline means that demand will drop slightly, thereby reducing the price of gasoline and thereby making it slightly more economical to keep that gas guzzling SUV on the road… The perversity of the market. It helps and it hurts.


Oil prices are not really determined by demand. Several major oil producers limit output to artificially keep prices high. Thus I doubt that prices will actually drop because of EV adoption…

And even if they did indeed drop — by the time it would begin being perceptible, EVs will be cheap enough that it won’t really make much of a difference anyway.


I agree with you in large extent – I still think that demand can influence prices a bit.
Oil demand probably it’s going to slow down with EVs, it’s true that maybe it would grow even more without them, but that can be said about natural gas – natural gas growing consumption is not slowing down oil consumption – EVs are just another step in the normal evolution of “things”.
Petrochemicals per example will drive oil demand, the same can happen with coal becoming less relevant, …
EVs are great, but unlike many think, it’s not going to be electric cars that are going to “ruin” oil producers.

Alex Clabburn

Great analysis. Thanks!


Great write up! Thanks.


The Model Y can’t arrive soon enough.

Lou Grinzo
In addition to the Model Y, I’d add that the 50+ bazillion promised plug-ins from VW, Ford, GM, Nissan, et al. can’t here soon enough. Those of us paying attention to this transition (and by “paying attention to” I mean “thoroughly obsessed by”) are about to see a wild thing happen: The mainstream will wake up in the next few years and start buying plug-in cars in massive numbers. Then those of us who have been driving EVs for years will have to endure hearing about how the new cars bought by our neighbors, friends, relatives, and co-workers are so wonderful because (wait for it) they use no gasoline at all! No, really!!! This is one reason why I keep drawing comparisons to the early days of the PC, when the consensus view was not that PCs weren’t ready to replace mainframes, but that they would never do so. Things continued like this for a while, and then all of a sudden “everyone” was buying a PC for their household use — parents doing financial planning, kids doing homework or playing games, etc. The payoff is coming. It will arrive later and happen more slowly than we’d like, but it’s… Read more »

“. . . PCs weren’t ready to replace mainframes, but that they would never do so.”

That reminded me of the predictions, back in the day, regarding GPS for the common folks.
It began as a Gov’t/Military technology.
GPS would /could never be deployed to the public as the smallest devices would be at least the size of a shoe box and would cost $10,000 or more.

I just woke up and heard my neighbor has a little, flat, hand held phone with a dinky little GPS receiver inside it! Can it be true?


Regarding the Title; “Tesla Model 3 Expanding U.S. Plug-In Market Not Cannibalizing It”

The sales data presented show a sharp rise from small beginnings for the plug-in market, accompanied by a small drop-off in the massive (non-truck) legacy ICE market.

To me this is the very definition of how the beginnings of Cannibalization would appear!

“Not Cannibalizing It” ?? Hahaha!!
We’ll have to wait and see, but. . .


The title means not cannibalizing the other plug-in offerings, but rather cannibalizing the ICE market.


Hmmm. You’re right. Will have to work on my reading comprehension!


Tesla may not be cannibalizing the overall plugin market but is cannibalizing the full BEV market. Look at Bolt and Leaf sales.


I second that. The analysis by the author masks the drop in non-Tesla BEV sales, by lumping them together with PHEV sales, which are a rather different segment with far less direct competition from the Model 3, and a substantial push from new arrival Clarity PHEV.

Both the Bolt and the Leaf this year are brand-new or nearly-new models that provide far better value+performance for $$ than any potential BEV customer could have even dreamed of a couple years ago.
And yet Bolt sales are down, and Leaf sales are barely above last year’s limp-home Gen 1 inventory closeout. And other BEVs are now mostly down to double-digit sales, even models that sold several hundred/month last year. Some of that may be automaker choice, but it’s seen across the board.

Wade, can you add a BEV-only trend chart to examine your thesis in a more direct manner? Thanks.


Even on the entire plugin market you can clearly see that growth is at very low levels with the summer months almost have no growth at all! All this from an industry that is supposed to have exponential growth! WOW!


Too bad Tesla does not have dealerships, its achilles heel. It just can’t service customers like legacy auto can.

Scott Franco

Which dovetails nicely with BEVs not needing anywhere near as much service as ICE cars.

Anti-Lord Kelvin

You should have added “/s”, because I bet that maybe all the negative notations came from people that didn’t saw the video.


It certainly helps that new models are also becoming more capable than even what was available last year. That, combined with the additional attention in general being paid to the segment, is sending sales upwards. Also, a lot of EV owners are now moving on to their second or even third offering.


It is certainly cannibalizing the high end PEV sales.

Just wait until the $35K version comes out, all other PEV sales will be down.

I hope this doesn’t turn into the story of HEVs where Prius dominate all other hybrid sales and end up capping the market at 5%.


It’s exactly what will happen unless the other manufacturers start taking this seriously and start making quality evs that regular people want to drive…no more fing compromises!


No. Look what happen to the Prius with no competition and mostly ugly design


The Prius has just one compromise, the rest is stellar. How many compromises have the current ev, especially the low range ones?


Yelp. Have to be very careful. Automakers will just give up there EVs programs


And sell peanuts? The emissions standards will only get thougher in the years to come.


Even without emission standards, if the legacy makers don’t step up their EV game, Tesla will simply keep eating away their market…


Tesla is just too small to make a big difference fast. This is probably the main reason why they are not overly worried.


The only thing holding many of us back is price. So few are willing / able to make a $600 payment, and the tax credits don’t really help. When Tesla catches up and starts leasing, that’s the game changer. If reasonable I’m in.