Tesla Model 3 Dominates US Premium-Class Small & Midsize Car Market — 23% of 2019 Sales*


Published on January 18th, 2020 | by Zachary Shahan

January 18th, 2020 by  

The Tesla Model 3 continued to hog the throne on top of the US premium-class car market at the end of 2019. For the full year, the Model 3 accounted for 23% of small and midsize luxury car sales*. In other words, nearly 1 out of every 4 small or midsize luxury cars sold in 2019 was a Tesla Model 3.

You could simply stick the Model 3 in the midsize car category, since it’s a midsizer not a small-sizer, and it would have an even larger share of its segment. However, I prefer to include the small premium-class car category as well because if you want a Tesla and want a small-ish premium-class car, your only option is a Model 3.

No other model comes anywhere close to the Model 3 in the US premium car market. The Tesla mass-market EV actually competes with the Ford Fusion and Hyundai Elantra in terms of sales volume, not the much lower volume BMW 3 Series or Audi A4.

Even if you combine by brand all of the small and midsize luxury cars of Tesla’s premium-class competitors, the Model 3 comes out on top.

The results for the 4th quarter are even better for Tesla than the full-year results. The Model 3 had 26% of the market instead of 23%.

I’m not including a chart for December, since Tesla has a very unbalanced delivery pattern in the US. The December results would have put the Model 3 at 37% of this market, but that’s deceiving since cars that “should have been” delivered in October or November (in a normal US auto sales process) were delivered in December.

Note that the following two charts are interactive and may not work correctly on some devices. (You can click from one quarter to the next via the circles near the top.) I recommend you view and use these charts on a normal computer that doesn’t fit into your pocket. They show the two-year evolution of the Model 3 compared to other premium-class cars.

Why are consumers not buying more BMW, Audi, Lexus, Acura, and Mercedes cars and instead choosing the Tesla Model 3? I think it’s because the models from those other automakers, compared to the Tesla Model 3, are slow, need too much maintenance, don’t have enough Easter eggs, aren’t safe enough, have ancient-looking tech, pollute the air and atmosphere (which harms humans and threatens human society, respectively), and are just too boring these days.

All of that said, as my recent examinations of BMW and Audi sales show, those automakers don’t seem to be hurt by Tesla in net — at least, not very much. Tesla’s sharp rise onto the market isn’t tearing down any individual company, even in the USA. These German automakers have certainly seen steady and severe drops in premium-class car sales, but they’ve also seen increased crossover and SUV sales that more or less make up for all of those lost car sales. Even though the Model 3 is one of the 10 best selling cars in the country in terms of units sold, it pulls buyers from all over the market, and those conquest sales are distributed enough that they may not have a notable effect on any individual automaker, even BMW and Audi.

For more on the Model 3 and why so many people are buying it, see our long-term Tesla Model 3 reviews (7 of our writers have a Model 3 and occasionally contribute review articles) or other Tesla Model 3 articles.

Also see our archives for Tesla sales and EV sales.

[Update: There was initially a spreadsheet error that led to incorrect charts and a market share of 24% instead of 23%. The error was corrected a few hours after publishing.]

*Tesla’s sales estimates are based on multiple sources. They are certainly not official, but we think they are close enough to reality to publish them. Tesla only reports global sales by quarter, so we have to estimate which portion of those are in the US.

If you’d like to buy a Tesla Model 3, Model S, or Model X and get some free Supercharging miles, feel free to use my special, magical, unicorn-blessed referral code: https://ts.la/zachary63404. You can also get a $100 discount on Tesla solar with that code. There is currently no use for a referral code when putting down a reservation for a Cybertruck or Model Y. 

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About the Author

is tryin’ to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA] — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in this company and feels like it is a good cleantech company to invest in. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort on Tesla or any other company.