Published on February 9th, 2019 | by Zachary Shahan
February 9th, 2019 by Zachary Shahan
We have a weird situation. Last year, GM decided to stop sharing monthly US sales figures. Ford has just now followed suit and stopping publishing monthly numbers as well. This is making monthly auto market sales report quite challenging. Of course, underneath the GM and Ford brands are Chevrolet, Lincoln, Buick, and Cadillac.
Tesla has never shared monthly sales data. It has also never split out the quarterly figures by country, which has been an annoyance for those of us trying to track and report on Tesla’s growth. But estimating sales for one company with a CEO who talks and tweets a lot is certainly easier than estimating sales for 3 companies and 6 brands. Oh yeah, and now that Tesla is shipping the Model 3 to customers outside of North America, the initial challenge of estimating Tesla sales has increased by an order of magnitude (or something like that).
In other words, it appears that I’m going to have to suspend monthly sales reports for the US car market. I will switch to quarterly reports unless something significant changes.
That said, I collected January sales data for 16 other automakers in the past week and I was eager to find something useful in all of that information. Looking through the numbers closely, and then again, and then again, what ended up striking me is that several of the automaker’s sales were down — by a lot. Was that due to the Trump shutdown? Or was it due to broader economic factors? Or was it due to the fact that Tesla sold nearly 140,000 Model 3s in the US last year and might sell a similar number in 2019? Are tens of thousands of people a month no longer buying gasmobiles while they wait to get the Model 3 or another coming EV?
You may recall that when I was on the 3rd quarter 2018 Tesla conference call, I used some of my precious time to ask about conquest sales. (Note: Conquest sales are essentially sales that steal a customer from another automaker.) Elon Musk didn’t know many details at that time, indicating he had just asked for the top 5 models customers were trading in and that they were the Toyota Prius, BMW 3 Series, Honda Accord, Honda Civic, and Nissan LEAF. In the next quarter, Elon and Tesla’s top sales data dude came back to the topic. They noted that, actually, everything was getting traded in. The Tesla Model 3 was pulling sales from across the market, from all different classes and companies.
There must be some more useful patterns in there worth identifying, but the general points are apparently clear enough: 1) you can’t pigeonhole the Tesla Model 3, and 2) everyone else is feeling the consequences of the Model 3’s rise to some extent or another.
Side note: If you ordered a Model 3, Model S, or Model X before February 2 but didn’t use a referral code in order to get 6–9 months of free Supercharging, you can still use my referral code — http://ts.la/tomasz7234 — in order to get that bonus/discount.
Just send an email to buildmy3EMEA@tesla.com with the word “Referral” in the subject line. Put your name, contact information, reservation number (starts with RN), and the referral code you’d like to use in the body of the email (for example, tomasz7234 if you’re using mine).
But let’s get back to these other automakers’ January sales.
Across all vehicle types, the following automakers saw US sales growth in January 2019 compared to January 2018:
- Kia sales were up by slightly fewer than 2,000 units (5%)
- Subaru sales were also up by slightly fewer than 2,000 units (4%)
- Hyundai sales were up by a bit more than 1,000 units (3%)
- Jaguar Land Rover sales were up by fewer than 1,000 units (16%)
- Acura sales were up by fewer than 1,000 units (10%).
- Tesla sales were up by 600 units (9%) according to my estimate, due to Model 3 deliveries primarily shifting to Europe and China for a couple of months
- Volvo sales were up by a few hundred units (5%)
On the down side, here are the automakers who saw their numbers decline:
- Nissan sales were down by a whopping ~22,500 units (20%) — due to the insane Carlos Ghosn jailing in Japan?
- Toyota sales were down by 11,000 units (7%)
- Mercedes-Benz sales were down by approximately 4,000 units (14%)
- Volkswagen sales were down by approximately 1,700 units (1.5%)
- Honda sales were down by approximately 1,600 units (1.5%)
- BMW sales were down by about 900 units (5%)
- Lexus sales were down by approximately 500 units (3%)
- Infiniti sales were down by a few hundred units (3%)
- Audi sales were down by a few hundred units (2%)
While those two lists have a similar number of automakers on them, there’s a net sales loss of around 35,000 vehicles.
Again, we don’t know what happened with Ford and GM brands in January.
Looking only at the car market (in other words, excluding trucks, SUVs, and crossovers), we get the following gains:
- Tesla sales were up by 1,500 units (32%) according to my estimate
- Volkswagen sales were up by 861 units (7%)
- Audi sales were up by 631 units (10%)
- Lexus sales were up by 362 units (7%)
- Jaguar sales were up by 300 units (43%) according to my estimate
And we get the following losses:
- Nissan sales were down by 12,800 units (26%)
- Toyota sales were down by 3,889 units (7%)
- Mercedes-Benz sales were down by 1,165 units (9%)
- BMW sales were down by 1,036 units (9%)
- Infiniti sales were down by 820 units (22%)
- Honda sales were down by 447 units (1%)
- Acura sales were down by 355 units (12%)
- Volvo sales were down by 202 units (12%)
Clearly, yet again, there was a large net drop in sales in the US.
To close out, below are numbers for the vehicles commonly considered to be the Tesla Model 3’s core competitors (other small & midsize luxury cars):
|Models||Jan 2019 vs Jan 2018||Jan 2019 vs Jan 2018|
|Tesla Model 3||108%||2,600|
BMW 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 Series
Audi A3 + A4 + A5 + A6
Lexus ES + GS + IS + RC
Infiniti Q50 + Q60 + Q70
|Volvo 60 + 90||12%||202|
Acura RLX + TLX
As you can see, I don’t have any solid answers here on why we’re seeing the drop in car sales and in overall vehicle sales. Also, it will be easier and perhaps more useful to compare sales at the end of the 1st quarter. Nonetheless, it’s clear that in January 2019, a lot fewer cars were sold in the US than in January 2018. It’s also clear that Tesla has delivered approximately 140,000 new Model 3s to US customers in the past year. Furthermore, in the final quarters, ~75% of those sales were from new customers walking into Tesla stores, not from reservation holders. Are many of them now “missing” from the new gas car market and not buying the vehicles from Mercedes, BMW, Lexus, Audi, and even Toyota and Nissan that they’d normally buy at this time?
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