Tesla Model 3 Shines Supreme in California
For the first time since the early days of the auto industry, an electric vehicle—the Tesla Model 3—is at the top of the sales chart in the U.S.
Okay, it’s just one state. But it’s a biggie: California.
And it’s only through the first quarter of the year…at a time when overall sales started to tank due to the coronavirus.
Still, it’s a significant milestone.
Up in a Down Market
Sales of the Model 3, which got off to somewhat of a slow start after it was launched in 2018—due in part to production snafus—jumped 19% in California during the first three months vs. 2019 levels, according to the California New Cars Dealer Assn. and Experian.
Tesla Model 3 (Image: Tesla)
Overall light vehicle sales in California slipped 4% for the period.
This put the Model 3 in the pole position. Barely.
The Tesla EV tallied sales of 18,900, outpacing the Honda Civic by nearly 900 units to win the title. By comparison, the Civic outsold the Model 3 by 16,400 units for all of 2019 in California.
The top 10 vehicles in the Golden State through March were:
- Tesla Model 3 (18,900)
- Honda Civic (18,000)
- Toyota Camry (17,900)
- Toyota RAV4 (17,300)
- Toyota Corolla (15,600)
- Ford F-Series (13,000)
- Honda Accord (12,600)
- Chevrolet Silverado (11,900)
- Ram pickup (11,900)
- Toyota Tacoma (10,500)
Home State Advantage
Tesla’s overall sales (Model 3, S, X and Y) in California jumped 9% for Jan-March, increasing its market share to 4.6% from 4% in like-2019. Deliveries of the Model X increased nearly 11%, while the Model S plummeted 27%. The Model Y was introduced this year.
The total was good enough for 6th place.
Toyota was the top-selling brand in California for the period, increasing its market share to 17% from 15.3% during the first three months of 2019. It was followed by Honda (11.1%), Ford (8.7%), Chevrolet (7.7%) and Nissan (5.5%), then Tesla.
Experian predicts full-year registrations in California will fall 26% to 1.54 million units, with virtually no vehicles sold in the last two months. Light trucks are expected to pick up nearly 4% in market share. Needless to say, the forecasting firm notes the projection is subject to an “above average level of variability.”
EVs Face Uphill Battle in U.S.?
California was one of the few bright spots for EVs in the U.S. last year. Electrified models (EVs and hybrids) accounted for more than 13% of the state’s overall volume in 2019, about 10 percentage points higher than the national average.
But 2020 is expected to be a tough year for the environmentally-friendly vehicles (except Tesla models) due to consumer apathy, premium prices—with dwindling incentives—and cheap gasoline. The coronavirus likely will exasperate the situation.
Chinese electric-car startup Nio Inc. is forming a manufacturing joint venture with Beijing E-Town International Investment and Development Co., which is investing 10 billion yuan ($1.5 billion) in the business.
When Suzuki developed the GSX1300R, it set out to build the fastest mass-production motorcycle on the market. As competitors gained ground and stringent emission regulations were set, Suzuki set out to reinvent the bike.
Dan Nicholson is vice president of General Motors Global Propulsion Systems, the organization that had been “GM Powertrain” for 24 years.