View RSS Feed

CapitalistOppressor

Tesla Model S - The #1 "Large Luxury Car" Brand in America

Rating: 6 votes, 4.33 average.
Name:  20130218dsc4977.jpg
Views: 50687
Size:  306.5 KB
Photo Credit: toto_48313 - Tesla Motors Club

HybridCars.com recently published "Will Tesla Model S Be Americas Best-Selling Plug-in Car in March?" which basically argued that Tesla was on the verge of becoming the best selling plugin in America. For a long time now, this sort of story, which seeks to compare the Model S with cars like the Chevy Volt or Nissan Leaf, has generated a certain amount of consternation on my part because those cars are quite different from the Model S.

The base price of the entry level Model S is a full 50% higher than that of the Volt and more than twice what the Leaf now costs. The Model S is a much larger car, is much more luxurious and has far better performance. Other than the fact that all are capable of plugging into a wall, the cars have nothing in common with each other. You might as well compare a Nissan Versa with an Audi A8.

In fact, there are vehicles that are quite a bit like the Model S in virtually every respect other than being powered by gasoline. Depending on who is doing the classification the Model S could fit into a number of different categories, but the best fit is probably one that GoodCarBadCar.net defines as "Large Luxury Cars".

These are large luxury sedans priced in the $70,000+ range, and the segment is dominated by major players like the BMW 6 Series and 7 Series, Mercedes-Benz S Class and Lexus LS. Other entries include the Porsche Panamera, Audi A8 and Jaguar XJ. For all practical purposes, these vehicles represent the cars and companies that the Model S is competing against, and having seen the report by HybridCars I was curious as to how well Tesla is doing compared to it's actual competition.

Of course you immediately run into the problem that HybridCar's (and others) have run into, which is that Tesla does not routinely report it's sales figures. Unlike major automakers, Tesla only provides that information when it releases its quarterly financial results. From those, we know that Tesla “sold” about 250 Model S’s in the third quarter, which ended on September 30th, and approximately 2,400 cars in the fourth quarter, which ended on December 31st. What is interesting about those numbers is that by averaging 800 cars per month in the fourth quarter of 2012 Tesla was carving out significant market share in the Large Luxury Car market.

Since December 31 we have received no official sales figures from Tesla. With the first quarter of 2013 about to end we are left to read various tea leaves to try and guesstimate sales for the Model S. HybridCars.com (using an unknown methodology) estimates that Tesla sold 1,000 vehicles in January and 1,400 in February. I’m not sure what brand of tea they were drinking but those numbers put Tesla Motors into an dogfight with BMW for 1st place in this market.

According to the sales estimate that they cited in their comparison with the Volt (and listed on their "Dashboard") the Tesla Model S is very close to matching the combined North American Sales of both the BMW 6 Series and 7 Series during the first two months of the year. In January BMW sold 1042 cars in this class, and upped that to 1,511 in February.

Source -
January 2013 Large Luxury Car Sales In America
January 2013 Large Luxury Car Sales In Canada
February 2013 Large Luxury Car Sales In America
February 2013 Large Luxury Car Sales In Canada


The only hole in this argument is that HybridCars is using a Tesla sales estimate of unknown origin and accuracy. Curious to find out whether this could possibly be true, I set out to find some tea leaves of my own to read. And as is commonly the case when dealing with the Model S, the go to source for information is our own Tesla Motors Club. Among the myriad types of data that we track on this site is a spreadsheet that contains the VIN numbers and actual delivery dates for hundreds of our members. Based on that document I created this graph, which is tracking actual delivered cars (as opposed to reservations).

Name:  Tesla-Deliveries.gif
Views: 4635
Size:  55.1 KB

There is a lot of data here, and the VIN number does not correlate 100% to sales because the company has produced a number of cars for testing, store displays and test drives. Furthermore, you can’t just look at the highest VIN delivered by a given date, because there are inevitably many cars in transit. Instead you have to look at the entire cluster (lowest to highest) and find the best fit to determine the likely number of delivered cars by a given date.

From this graph, and using these methods, we can infer that for the first two months of the year Tesla has delivered approximately 3025 cars. We know this because the data in late February is clustered around the trendline and strongly suggests ~5,800 total delivered cars of which 2,650 were delivered in 2012. I’ve arbitrarily assigned another 125 cars to company use, leaving 3025 delivered in 2013. Broken down by month we see ~1,325 sales in January and ~1,700 sales in February. These numbers are broadly consistent with publically reported Tesla production figures of 400+ cars per week which Tesla reached sometime in the middle of December (the factory took a week off in January to rest its workers).

The VIN data strongly suggests that Tesla is currently enjoying a sizable lead in the in the North American Large Luxury Car market. We'll obviously get some additional clarity at the next shareholders meeting, but from my seat it looks like Tesla, to this point in 2013, is sitting atop the most prestigious market segment of the most prestigious market in the world.

North American Large Luxury Car YTD – 9,179 (excluding Tesla); ~12,204 total
  1. Tesla Sales/Market Share YTD ~ 3,025/~24.8% (est.)
  2. BMW Sales/Market Share YTD – 2,553/~20.9%
  3. Daimler Sales/Market Share YTD – 1,912/~15.7%
  4. Lexus Sales/Market Share YTD – 1,903/~15.6%


North American Large Luxury Car January Sales – 4,656 (excluding Tesla); ~5,981 total
  1. Tesla Sales/Market Share January ~ 1,325/~22.1% (est.)
  2. Lexus Sales/Market Share January – 1,088/~18.2%
  3. BMW Sales/Market Share January – 1,042/~17.4%
  4. Daimler Sales/Market Share January – 964/~16.1%


North American Large Luxury Car February Sales – 4,523 (excluding Tesla); ~6,223 total
  1. Tesla Sales/Market Share February ~ 1,700/~27.3% (est.)
  2. BMW Sales/Market Share February – 1,511/~24.3%
  3. Daimler Sales/Market Share February – 948/~15.2%
  4. Lexus Sales/Market Share February – 815/~13.1%

Updated 03-31-2013 at 08:45 PM by CapitalistOppressor

Categories
Tesla News , Featured , Model S

Comments

  1. doug's Avatar
    It's nice to see real data. Do we know when Model S deliveries will catch up to the order backlog?
  2. CapitalistOppressor's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by doug
    It's nice to see real data. Do we know when Model S deliveries will catch up to the order backlog?
    Not really. The main reason being that we still can't be certain how much of the reservation list will be converted into sales. Tesla has been doing an excellent job of this and reports very low cancellation rates, but there is anecdotal evidence of large numbers of deferrals and other issues that might have masked some cancellations in previous quarters.

    Hopefully we'll get a clearer picture of this at the next shareholders meeting. If cancellations remain low they could produce at the current 500+ cars per week for months before they whittle the list down.
  3. wraithnot's Avatar
    From anecdotal evidence, I'd agree that there is a lot of overlap between Mercedes-Benz owners and Model S owners. On two separate occasions, I've had people driving a Mercedes stop me in a parking lot, ask me all sorts of questions about the Model S, and literally drool over the car (granted this has happened a lot more than twice, but all the other times the people were driving more main stream cars). Steve Jobs was also notorious for continually buying new MB's so he never had to get permanent license plates. If he was still around, I bet he would drive a Model S.
  4. luvb2b's Avatar
    Wow great blog. Thanks for the research!

    Can you write for stinking alpha? This would be a great piece.
  5. CapitalistOppressor's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by luvb2b
    Wow great blog. Thanks for the research!

    Can you write for stinking alpha? This would be a great piece.
    That was one of the original plans. But I decided to post here since the data is from the users here. There is probably an equal chance of it getting noticed here as doing an instablog there and I tweeted the link to a number of folks who write about Tesla. Hopefully they do some followup next week.
  6. Martini's Avatar
    It would be interesting to see sales volume for this segment over the past several years to see how much Tesla has added to the market vs taking sales from competitors. The evidence on TMC is that Tesla is attracting lots of new customers to this segment.
  7. BrianH's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by CapitalistOppressor
    Hopefully we'll get a clearer picture of this at the next shareholders meeting. If cancellations remain low they could produce at the current 500+ cars per week for months before they whittle the list down.
    I'd guess that Europe will be taking about half that production by Q3.
  8. CapitalistOppressor's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Martini
    It would be interesting to see sales volume for this segment over the past several years to see how much Tesla has added to the market vs taking sales from competitors. The evidence on TMC is that Tesla is attracting lots of new customers to this segment.
    That was actually something I was thinking about writing up if I do a followup for March sales. The evidence is that Tesla has substantially expanded the market. Likely they have taken many sales directly from the competition, but that is harder to quantify because the entire market has gotten bigger with the larger economy. But a big portion of their sales are clearly folks who would not have purchased a BMW 7 Series as an alternative.
  9. doug's Avatar
    So Tesla says they delivered 4750+ Model Ss in Q1. How does that match with your projections.
  10. CapitalistOppressor's Avatar
    I think quite well. The conclusion is not altered at all. Tesla was #1 in the first 2 months of the year regardless of how you do the accounting.

    HybridCars.com updated their stats from 1000 in January to 1300, which is virtually identical to my estimate of 1325. They went from 1400 to 1500 in January, vs 1700 for me. I think the evidence is on my side, but either estimate supports my conclusion.

    They estimate ~1950 in March, while my estimate implies 1750+. Prior to the Tesla data dump I posted that my data, plus GeorgeB's blog on the 21st implied that 4500 vehicles had been delivered by the week ending March 24, with 1 week remaining at a time that Tesla was delivering 500 cars per week.

    So I guessed 5000 deliveries total and I suspect the difference comes from 3 possible factors.

    1st, that week ended with Easter weekend, which could result in fewer deliveries.

    2nd Tesla knew they had done enough to report a good quarter and might have wanted to delay a couple of hundred deliveries to get a head start on Q2. Silicon Valley companies are notorious for that sort of thing.

    3rd, "in excess of 4750" could mean 5000 or some number in between. In a few weeks I plan on doing another analysis of VIN data to see what it tells me for March.

    Regardless, I think an important tell comes from Tesla when they mention that new owners looking at their VIN's over the weekend were going to know that Tesla exceeded estimates. The only site exploring that is TeslaMotorsClub. I'm not the only user here who made such estimates, but someone here made Tesla feel like they were going to be outed.

    So bravo to everyone here who created and participated in the delivery thread, it's data collection and analysis.
  11. CapitalistOppressor's Avatar
    Oh, I should add a 4th possible factor. I assume 125 VINs for company use. They might have unused blocks with more VINs than actual company cars produced. Having 300 of those vs 125 would put them deep inside of my margin of error, and it's a credible possibility. 125 is just a back of the napkin guess when you get down to it.
  12. Cliff Hannel's Avatar
    I compiled the numbers from Q1 at EV Tripper - looking pretty strong!
  13. tomas's Avatar
    Well stated, it is just wrong to compare Model S in EV or EV/Hybrid category, it should be compared in luxury/sport category. While according to your analysis Tesla as a brand is in shootout with BMW for top spot, it seems evident that the Tesla Model S is hands down winner in terms of best selling model
  14. Unregistered's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by wraithnot
    Steve Jobs was also notorious for continually buying new MB's so he never had to get permanent license plates...
    That's an urban legend. Where could someone buy the same model year car, year after year, without plates?
  15. Slackjaw's Avatar
    Nice article. This has been picked up over at "valuewalk" .. At least you're given the credit:

    http://www.valuewalk.com/2013/04/tes...cedes-and-bmw/
  16. Soflason's Avatar
    This blog post got the original scoop! In addition to the value walk article, this is being picked up everywhere in the media... amazing reporting here, well done.
  17. CapitalistOppressor's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Soflason
    This blog post got the original scoop! In addition to the value walk article, this is being picked up everywhere in the media... amazing reporting here, well done.
    That was exactly the point. Tesla is (at the moment at least) beating the pants off of the traditional automakers in this segment. That's the story that needs to be told, instead of spurious comparisons to vehicles which cost half as much.

    And you are right about it being picked up. Even articles about other subjects are reporting the Model S as the sales leader in its class. When the official numbers are re-announced (and possibly upgraded?) during the investors conference call the business press should report them with the proper framing when they do their write ups.
  18. Unregistered's Avatar
    I really hope Tesla hangs on. They are the first green car that actually looks awesome. And they're named after one of the most amazing inventors of the past thousand years. Besides my love of cars <a href="http://www.beatsbydrereview.net">this</a> is my other passion.

    Cheers!
Leave Comment Leave Comment