Tesla’s reign at the top of electric vehicle car sales in its country of origin, the US, could soon come to a halt, with data showing that the Chevrolet Bolt – the company’s relatively new fully electric car – sold more than twice the number of cars than the Tesla Model S in the month of October.
According to figures published on Inside EVs, the Bolt sold 2,781 units in October, up about 150 from September, marking its best month to date as seen in the chart below.
Indeed, sales of the Bolt – which hit the market just 11 months ago – outnumbered those for both Tesla Model S and Model X combined, which totalled 1,970 for the month, 850 for Model X and 1,120 for the Model S.
This brings Chevrolet’s total Bolt sales for the year in the US to 17,083, which remains behind Tesla’s total Model S sales, at 20,750. Tesla has also sold a total of 16,140 Model Xs in the US in 2017.
But the Bolt was the clear winner for the month, closely followed by the Toyota Prius Prime, which sold 1,626, and the Chevy Volt (the company’s hybrid EV, which is decreasing in popularity against its all-electric cousin) sold 1,362 cars for the month.
In fourth place came the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid (1,175), and then fifth was the Tesla Model S, with 1,120 sales.
So what is Chevy doing right with its Bolt EV? According to reports, the car’s success is linked with its affordability – it retails in the US at around $US36,000 – and its 238-mile (383km) range.
“The Bolt has passed an important middle-class milestone: you can drive for a full and harried work week, at the distance of the average American commute, with miles to spare for evening jaunts, and you won’t have to think about plugging in until Saturday,” said one reviewer.
Of course, comparing sales of Tesla’s $US100,000 (give or take) Models S and X with those of the mass market Bolt is not entirely fair. It will be interesting to see how the numbers tally when the Model 3 starts meeting its production targets, hopefully sometime next year.
But, as Venture Beat points out, Chevrolet “has the production of affordable vehicles down to a science”, and if their electric sales continue to grow at their current rate, “Tesla had better start guarding its crown.”
And this is illustrated in the chart above, which shows a steady upward trajectory in Chevy Bolt monthly sales numbers, in contrast with the ups and downs of Model S, which peaked at 4,860 in September, falling to just above 1,000 last month.
Of course, this reflects Tesla’s comparatively smaller manufacturing scale, as well as the recent production line tribulations that have prevented Model 3 delivery from getting up to speed – a problem CEO Elon Musk has warned will impact production of both Models S and X.
Tesla delivered just 222 of its mass market Model 3 cars in Q3, falling well short of its forecast Q4 target of 5,000 a week, as it works to fill an order book of more than 400,000.
In a results briefing Musk admitted to the company being in “production hell” with the Model 3, which started being drip-fed to consumers in July this year.
The company hopes to have addressed the so-called “production line bottlenecks” that are holding it up within the next three months.
This disappointment aside, Tesla notched up its 250,000th vehicle delivery in Q3, which Musk noted meant the company had grown its fleet by a factor of 100 over the past five years.
“Five years ago we had only delivered 2500 cars, so the Tesla fleet has grown by a factor of 100 over five years,” Musk told analysts.
“I would expected five years from now (for delivery growth) to be an order of magnitude, at least,” he added.
So, what happens when the Model 3 starts hitting roads by the thousand?
“Although the stock versions of the Model 3 with no additional options will lack the speed and autonomous features of the Model S, they will carry Tesla’s luxury name and sleek look at a price that is comparable to the Bolt EV,” Venture Beat says.
“We can see that those shopping for an electric vehicle are torn between practicality and luxury.
“Perhaps a model that combines a little of both will allow Tesla to defend its top position in the electric car industry. Despite the many issues plaguing Tesla’s operations at the moment, a successful release of the Model 3 could help the car maker hold onto its crown just a little longer.”
But the real winner, notes Mashable, is the electric car, with overall sales in the US charting their 25th straight month of gains in October, adding up to more 157,000 electric vehicles sold this year — a notable 30 per cent increase from 2016.
The question is, when will Australian EV sales catch up?