Tesla – a genuine competitor to the establishment?

Updated: Aug 20, 2018

A car company with fewer than 30,000 annual W.European sales wouldn’t usually attract much attention in today’s cutthroat automotive scene. Despite the fact that Germany’s big three premium manufactures surpass Tesla’s W. European annual sales total roughly every two weeks, Tesla’s pure electric 27,910 West European annual sales have BMW, Audi and Mercedes’ attention.


1-in-4 Share of Tesla’s global sales going to W.Europe


Just over every forth Tesla sold globally was sold in W.Europe last year. Sales increased 74 per cent over 2016 levels. Tesla stood second only to Renault (30,282 annual sales), in Western Europe’s BEV electric sales league last year. Factor in that Tesla’s product mix, made up by just two models in Europe currently, Model S and Model X, are both pricey premium products and the data is even more illuminating.

German’s electrified push mainly from profitable PHEVs

Last year, according to AID data 15,200 Model S and 12,700 Model X were sold in Western Europe. This was the first full year of sales for the Model X SUV and compares with 38,700 combined BMW X5/X6 (of which 5,200 PHEV) sales and 13,200 Range Rovers. As if this wasn’t enough of a sign of intent from the Californian based company which took over the Toyota/GM NUMMI production facility based in Fremont California in 2010, the maturing Model S luxury sector vehicle was the best selling model in its sector in W.Europe last year outselling both the Mercedes S-Class (13,200) and BMW 7-Series (11,100). None of Germany’s premium manufactures offer pure electric luxury sector models, but PHEVs are on offer, with Porsche’s Panamera plug-in closest with 4,100 sales annual sales last year, according to AID data.


Models S luxury sector lead in Europe not reflected globally

Model S lead in Europe wasn’t reflected globally however where the S-Class took top honours with 70,000 sales last year compared to 54,700 Model S.

In terms of market mix in Western Europe, Norway was the biggest market soaking up 30 per cent of total sales last year made up by 4,748 Model S and 1,430 Model X. Norway must be seen as an anomaly market thanks to generous tax breaks given to electric cars and consequentially the Model S is priced one sector lower in the executive, BMW’s 5-Series and Audi’s A6, sector. The uptake in Norway has been so successful in fact, that last year Tesla was a top seven manufacturer, ahead of Audi and in December was the best selling manufacture outright.

Bad start to 2018 Turning to latest Q1 West European AID data and the picture doesn’t look quite as charged. Q1 sales – still made up of just two models - as Model 3 deliveries haven’t begun due to production delays - fell by 5.2 per cent year on year.


Global sales were up 19.9 percent in Q1, due entirely to the introduction of the Model 3 in the US, recording 8,180 deliveries there. Both Model X and Model S saw global sales fall by 12.8 percent, leading to Q1 2018 levels barely moving over Q4 2017 levels - +0.3 per cent - and remaining below 30,000 quarterly deliveries.


Large falls from major European markets in Q1

Norway’s Q1 sales continued to rise by 41 per cent year on year, however other markets saw large falls. In Germany sales fell by 35 percent to just 666 sales during January to March according to KBA data, with the Model S only managing a top seven position in Germany’s top selling electric car models. Swiss sales were also down by 30.9 per cent and in Sweden they fell by almost half.

With strict CO2 goals for the EU on the horizon manufacturers operating in Europe are being forced to bring electric cars to the market in order to lower their average fleet CO2 emissions and avoid eye-watering fines. Audi’s E-Tron Quattro and Jaguar’s iPace - both Model X competitors - will both launch this year followed by Porsche’s Mission E, Model S competitor, next year. Times could get tougher for this electric pioneer.

© 2020 by Matthias Schmidt | Berlin, Germany