Tesla Takes The EV Sales Lead For 2013, As Ford Gets A Plug-In Letdown In January

FEB 4 2013 BY JAY COLE 30

2013 Sales Leader, The Tesla Model S

2013 Sales Leader, The Tesla Model S

Thanks to a perfect storm of serious inventory issues at both Nissan, Chevrolet, and some disastrous results from Ford in the month of January (also partly to do with supply), an $80,000+ luxury electric car took the sales lead one month into 2013.

Congrats to the Tesla Model S.

Despite A Very Limited Public Presence, Tesla Still Has An Estimated 13,000 Reservations To Work Through

Despite A Very Limited Public Presence, Tesla Still Has An Estimated 13,000 Reservations To Work Through

Any by pointing out inventory issues at the major auto makers, we mean to take nothing away from Tesla, as they sold an estimated 1,200-1,600 electric sedans in January (based on a production rate of 400/cars per week being made in January, and tracking customer deliveries during the month).

  • Nissan was affected by the end of importing LEAFs from Japan, and had sold all but the last 350 cars they had remaining on their lots before the 2013 US-made LEAFs starting arriving at dealerships later this week.  Nissan sold 2/3rds of their inventory in January, good for 650 sales.
  • The Chevrolet Volt supply was constrained after GM idled their Hamtramck facility in December for 3 weeks, and depleted inventories by more than a estimated 1,500 units themselves.  GM sold 1,140 Votls in January.
  • The Toyota Prius plug-in sold a decent 874 units in the first month of the year, a month notorious for low sales given the tax structure of how the $7,500 federal credit is recouped

Even after the above three auto makers stumbled, it was still thought that the Ford, with their C-Max Energi, could take away Tesla’s chance to be the first ‘non-old school’ automaker to lead the US in plug-in sales, when they finally got around to reported sales this week.  But that was not the case.

  • C-Max sales overall (standard/hybrid and plug-in) took a pounding in January, as the model lineup fell 63% to 2,725 units (from 4,310 in December, and almost 5,000 in November).  The C-Max Energi, was hit even harder, as only 338 were sold in January, down from a high of 1,259 in November, and about a 1,000 last month.  Of note: inventory for the C-Max Energi at month’s end stood very low, at an estimated 450 units
For The First Time, Ford Had Some Trouble Moving The C-Max Energi

For The First Time, Ford Had Some Trouble Moving The C-Max Energi

Still, it seems unlikely that even with a full complement of C-Max Energis, Ford could have taken the sales title away from Tesla this month.

As for Ford’s other plug-ins, never a serious contender to challenge for any sales records, the Focus Electric also stumbled in January with only 81 units sold, down from 167 in December.  We are still waiting on results from the Fusion Energi, but we expect it to fare no better than the Focus Electric, as it only went on sale this month, and it starts at around $40,000.


UPDATE:  Despite some inventory of the Fusion Energi registering in dealerships currently, Erich Merkle, head U.S. sales analyst at Ford Motor Company, replied to our inquiry about the Fusion Energi sales for January with a confirmation that none were sold during the month:

“Sorry,  but I don’t have any Fusion Energi’s to report for January. I will put them in the report when we begin selling them.”

Looking ahead to this month:

Tesla is expected to sell between 1,600 and 2,000 Model S sedans, as the California company started producing its mid-grade, 60 kWh, version of the Model S, while working through the balance of an estimated 13,000 reservations yet to be filled.

Next month’s anticipated result from Tesla may yet also be decent enough to claim victory again for February, as the Chevrolet Volt is not expected to return to numbers in excess of 2,000 units until March when seasonal demand picks up, and Nissan execs say that it will also take until March to completely re-fill the dealership pipeline with 2013 LEAFs.

So for at least a little while, Tesla can say they are the number one electric car maker in the country.

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30 Comments on "Tesla Takes The EV Sales Lead For 2013, As Ford Gets A Plug-In Letdown In January"

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Here’s a full-year 2013 guess/estimate: 125,000 units for the US overall: http://www.thestreet.com/story/11831063/1/electric-car-sales-to-double-in-2013.html

Ironically, one of our contributors is going to take a stab at 2013 guesstimates for tomorrow and is working on piece now.

…not going to be me though, I’m smarter than that now, (=

I noted that 2013 would be a doubling of EV sales back in December. something like that. yeah, I think everyone is copying me now 🙂

I read that sales prediction today also. For the most part it is pretty good, but I think there were a few spots where it missed.

The 25k for Model S might be total production, but not US production as they are going to start shipping overseas this summer.

Also, I think the predictions for Fusion Energi and Accord plug-in are extremely optimistic as there will be better values for customers looking for a plug-in hybrid.

Not to worry though, a little birdie has told me we will get to debate this fully in a few days…;)

Production is where it is built (California).
Deliveries are where they are sold.
Tesla is 100% USA Production and worldwide sales.

Thanks for catching my poor wording. I meant to say total sales vs US sales, not production.

The article referenced predicted US sales of Model S as 25k. I think that will be impossible if Tesla ships some of their production out of the country.


Depending on how many Model S sales got squeezed into 2012, Telsa could scrape down very close to the 1140 Volts sold in Jan. I for one am looking forward to Feb 11th where Tesla will finally break this extended silence.

February definitely looks like it is shaping up to be a solid win for Tesla.

Let’s face it, we love the numbers and we love guessing, and guessing is what it is. I read the prediction ( as we all did) and I believe it to be 40,000+ high. If it turns out to be correct at 125,000 that would be wonderful. If it turns out to be closer to 80,000 that too is a success.

I asked master Jay last year what I find to be the more interesting question and that was “Does the introduction of more EVs take away from other EV sales? I think autos that enter in a totally different class like the Tesla Model S take nothing away from other sales. Interestingly enough it seems that the introduction of new EVs seem to have added their own niche as if there are brand specific loyalties waiting. I am almost certain this will be true with BMW. This too is intrigues us all to no end!

Bottom line, the industry is progressing and is here to stay. Sometimes it is like watching grass grow, but we all watch it all the same. It’s what we do……

Ford could always slash the prices of its offerings.. they do need CARB credits as bad as anyone else.

Good for them, hopefully Tesla will survive….


Hmm seems odd to treat tesla special by considering production as the measure. If you want to look at production, then talk about production not sales.

I presume you meant 400cars/week not month?
What is tesla’s average production to deliver time?
What was their shutdown in Dec for holiday?
How much of the January production were counted in their 2012 production sales (i.e. pulled backward into Dec but delivered in Jan). Since Tesla doesn’t formally report sales, the media should be looking very carefully to ensure they are not double counting. Or better yet, list them in the list as unknown as they don’t report data properly.

Hi Dr, yes 400/week for most of January

We are using production as the measure to estimate sales based on all production being for a sold product and using a 3 week lagging ‘frame to delivery’ metric.

In terms of real production, we peg Tesla production for the traditonal auto-selling month of January to be just north of 1,800 units, but also allow for the higher production rate at the back end which would be included in February.

The greater than normal range of sales estimated in January at 1,400 (+/-200) is due to the unknown success (if you look at it that way) of their pull forward attempt of 2013 deliveries into 2012.

Certainly, February (and January to an extent) will be a lot easier to calculate with the absence of this program, and the release of Tesla’s quarterly result in a couple weeks.

“Pull Forward”? My Model S was produced in December of 2012, and not delivered to me until January 17th, 2013. It’s a 2012MY VIN as well. Couldn’t be happier with the car :). I’m betting they count it in the January sales numbers, since I didn’t fully pay for it until 1/10/2013.

Congrats on your purchase Mitch!

And yes, definitely a January 2013 purchase. The car has to have at least made it to the factory parking lot with completed paperwork by Dec 31 to be counted as a ’12 sale.

Note that the Tesla’s cost $80K~100K +, so regarding dollars spent, I think they may have set the record for the most money invested in a PHEV company in 1 month. Even the Volt’s best sales month (~3000 cars @ $40K ea) may not exceed Telsa’s January 2013 amount. It’s close.

Tesla does not sell PHEV’s , they sell EV’s.

you know what I meant (it was late)

Well, finally Ford graces us with their sales report.

Looks like they are being hurt by the bad press over mileage claims.

at 2000/mo it will take Tesla about 6 mo to finish off the 13000 reservations they have left on the S. How many new orders have they been getting lately.?? They need 2000 new orders/mo.

Do we have any way to know how many new S orders they are getting?

That is the big question for Tesla. The one from the movie where Lutz/Musk talk about “once everyone who wants one, gets one, then what?” (movie=Revenge of the Electric Car)

Based on the Reservations tracking thread http://www.teslamotors.com/forum/forums/model-s-reservation-tally?page=70.

For December there were over 2,300 new US reservations alone, for January there were 1,850 new US reservations. Each month there were a few hundred new international reservations. They are receiving more then the required 2,000 orders per month to maintain an order pipeline, for a while until they got beyond 2,000 manufactured cars per month the list was growing, they are finally chipping away at the list.

Tesla reservations were most likely held back by the long wait. Now that Tesla is delivering 2,000 a month, additional reservations should increase significantly. 6 months for example would hardly be considered too long for what could be the best car of all time.

As a heads-up, I just talked with Ford’s analyst fellow (E.J./Erich Merkle), trying to find out the Fusion Energi’s January sales total (as they are showing some registered product at dealerships now), and he updated us that Ford didn’t sell any Fusion Energis in January.

“Sorry, but I don’t have any Fusion Energi’s to report for January. I will put them in the report when we begin selling them. ”

/updated the story to reflect as well


Do you have any month end inventory info on the Fusion Energi?

It seems as of Oct Ford only had 200 dealers who could sell the C-Max Energi or Focus Electric. But that will change as Ford will be ramping up to 900 dealers certified to sell electrified vehicles by spring.

Do you think the consumer reports negative remarks about the C-max and C-max Energi EPA estimates had anything to do with it?

No one pays any attention to CR. There was just very little inventory of C-Max at dealers. There is still a 60+ day backorder…

This is proof that (good) cars sell themselves.

Reuters took the opportunity to enlist 7 writers to pen a “damning”
editorial on the future death-knell of the plug-in automobile.
Of course, as I’ve said before – they used sales numbers like these
to predict EVs will die a sad death and that nobody wants them.

This on Monday, after last spring’s “damning” expose on the Volt
that GM was losing $49,000 per copy! In that article they ran
their numbers and their “experts” foretold that gasoline would have
to reach $12.50/gal before it became a positive investment for
it’s buyers.

Now it wouldn’t behoove them since they penned a deal to provide
the Saudis with information and data regarding energy, technology
and science – would it?

The anti-EV lobby uses these numbers and quotes from their
web authors to back up their doom and gloom for anything
that doesn’t need bubblin’ crude.

I’m not sure relative January sales numbers by themselves are really an accurate comparison. My understanding is Teslas are pre-ordered for the most part. That means sales month to month will be largely tied to production levels. The large tax credits being offered for EVs and PHEVs should have a big impact on buying decisions for most of the other vehicles though. I would expect to see a significant number of November – December sales “stolen” from January and February. Buying in November – December means the buyer can claim their tax credit in just a few months. If they wait and buy one month later in January, they have to wait another whole year to claim the credit.