2012 Tesla Model S SignatureEnlarge Photo
It wasn't even close.
When we asked our Twitter followers which electric car they thought would be judged by history as most important thus far, it was a slam-dunk.
Fully four out of five survey participants voted for the same vehicle out of the four choices we offered.
That car was the Tesla Model S, the sleek, pricey, battery-electric luxury sedan launched in mid-2012 as the first volume car from Silicon Valley startup Tesla Motors.
It's the car that has persuaded more than 100,000 buyers around the world that electric cars can be desirable, sexy, blisteringly fast, and entirely practical for daily use.
And it single-handedly put paid to the idea that electric cars are no more than slow, nerdy golf carts.
Which electric car will history view as most important?— Green Car Reports (@GreenCarReports) November 17, 2016
Of the four choices we offered, the Model S garnered 80 percent of all the votes cast.
The next most-popular car was the Nissan Leaf, currently the highest-selling electric car in the world, at 11 percent.
We had expected the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV, the first mass-priced electric car to offer more than 200 miles of range, to do somewhat better than it did.
The Bolt EV got only 7 percent of the votes, with the innovative but pricier BMW i3 bringing up the rear by a long way at just 2 percent.
Each of the four cars is important in its own way, but while we expected more votes for the Bolt EV, it's hard to be surprised at the Tesla's overwhelming win.
1,000th body for 2012 Tesla Model S on display at Tesla Motors factory, Fremont, CA, Oct 28, 2012Enlarge Photo
Before the Model S went into volume production, Tesla Motors was variously laughed at, denigrated, and ignored by much of the rest of the auto industry.
Within a year after the Model S launched, General Motors had convened a board-level study group to determine how much of a threat the startup carmaker posed to its business.
Within that same year, once German luxury makers had gotten their hands on a Model S to tear down, test on their tracks, and generally analyze, they too found their stable worlds rocked by an unexpected new entry.
In the four years since its launch, Tesla Motors has updated the Model S several times.
Running changes so far include one front-end restyling, the addition of two different sets of active-safety and driver-assist sensors, more battery options than we have space for, and numerous over-the-air software upgrades.
The Tesla Model S still appears to be selling steadily around the world, and—in all fairness—we have to agree that it can already be viewed as one of the few vehicles in 130 years of automotive history that has truly changed the direction of its industry.