Last year, Tesla changed the game for plug-in and electric-car sales as it ramped up production of its relatively affordable Model 3 to almost 5,000 cars a week.
As we noted early this month, the Model 3 by itself outsold most whole luxury brands and some entire mainstream makes. (Are you listening, Volkswagen?)
Starting in October, Green Car Reports changed its practice to report sales only quarterly, in acknowledgement that Tesla's quarterly sales reports, along with GM's, made monthly sales reports from other automakers a race among also-rans. The latest reports may see us updating our practice again.
Tesla's numbers still don't quite match up with those of the rest of the industry, since the company reports global sales, while other sales reports come from automakers' U.S. sales organizations. That skews the numbers significantly for the Model S and Model X, although the Model 3 so far is only sold in the U.S. and Canada, so the differences aren't as stark. To level the playing field, we've used numbers from Automotive News for Tesla's U.S. sales.
We decided a fourth-quarter roundup was more meaningful—because the Model 3 had reached full production by then and, at least at this point in a developing market, it seems more representative of future sales.
Tesla reported 90,700 sales for the fourth quarter, 63,150 of which were Model 3s, 13,500 Model Ses, and 14,050 Model Xes. According to Automotive News, the company sold 54,000 Model 3s in the U.S., along with 6,000 Model Ses and 5,100 Model Xes.
All other plug-in cars, excluding Kia, which did not break out sales of their plug-in versions before our deadline, sold 37,901 combined for the quarter.
2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV
General Motors was the next-best seller with 10,353 sales of the Chevrolet Volt in its next-to-last quarter before it goes out of production in March, and 8,438 Bolt EVs. That represents a 28-percent increase in Bolt sales after GM ramped up production in the fall.
Next up were plug-in hybrids from Toyota and Honda, with 7,072 sales for the Toyota Prius Prime and 6,635 for the Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid, which is a 25-percent increase over Q3.
The Tesla Model S and Model X slotted in next, according to their sales numbers from Automotive News.
The Nissan Leaf rang up 4,029 sales with its 151-mile range. A new longer-range Leaf Plus is due out this spring with an estimated range of 226 miles, but it is expected to cost about $5,500 more.
2019 Nissan Leaf
The Ford Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid had a good quarter, with 2,374 sales. The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV was the only other model to crack 1,000 sales, at 1,116.
With the slow production ramp-up of the Model 3, early last year, Tesla's sales were back-loaded into the third and fourth quarters. Looking at the whole year, though, doesn't change the picture much. It still outsold both of the next two contenders, the Chevrolet plug-ins, combined, by 50 percent.
Perhaps the best news? With the Tesla Model 3 reaching nearly-full production and several other new plug in hybrids landing on the market, all automakers combined sold more than four times as many plug-in cars in 2018 than they did in 2017. Whichever one is your favorite, that's worth celebrating.