If you’ve visited California lately and there seem to be a lot of Tesla Model S’s on the road, it’s not your imagination. Californians are snapping up the luxury electric sports sedan like organic dry-farmed tomatoes, according to sales figures. In June Tesla outsold Buick, Cadillac, Chrysler, Fiat, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lincoln, Mitsubishi, Porsche and Volvo.
Impressive. Even more so when you consider that Tesla sells a single model while most of those old-line automakers have showrooms full of different cars, from compacts to sport utility vehicles. The numbers compiled by Polk for the California New Car Dealers Association also report that Tesla grabbed 12% of the luxury sports category in the first half of 2013, beating the Audi A6 and Lexus GS.
Tesla sold 4,714 Model S’s in the first half of the year with 1,097 of those registered in June. Among other cars the Model S has outsold in California, the US’s largest and trend-setting automotive market, are the Audi A4, the Mercedes M Class, the BMW X5 and various compact cars and sport utility vehicles.
The numbers are small, of course, compared to the 33,987 Toyota Priuses and 31,576 Honda Accords sold in the first half of 2013. But the trend line seems clear: Since its launch in June 2012, when eight were sold, the Model S has quickly gone from a plaything of Silicon Valley and Hollywood moguls to a direct competitor of various ultimate German driving machines. It hasn’t hurt that Tesla has been showered with accolades, from Consumer Reports bestowing the Model S with its highest-ever automotive rating to the federal government awarding the car its top safety rating this week. And no automotive chieftain knows how to dominate the media like Tesla chief executive Elon Musk.
Electric-car enthusiasts should also take heart from the sales numbers for alternative vehicles in general. The hybrid Prius, which paved the way for acceptance of all-electric cars like the Model S, was California’s best-selling vehicle in the first half of the year, and hybrids now account for 7% of all car sales in California. Interestingly, pure electric cars now account for 1.1% of the California market, while plug-in hybrids like the Chevrolet Volt have only 0.7%.
Last year, by comparison, electric cars were just 0.4% of sales. Most of the growth since then is due to the Model S, which accounted for nearly half of all electric-car registrations in the first half of this year.