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Why Tesla Model 3 Will Devastate EV Sales Through 2018

EV sales are about to dive. Who would buy another EV with the Tesla Model 3 around the corner?

Battery electric vehicle sales are about to dive. Who would buy another EV with the Tesla Model 3 on its way? When Torque News reports factual sales numbers for battery electric cars readers are outraged. Telling people that think oil is destroying the planet that only 0.3% of new car sales are battery electrics is received as an insult. Regardless of how electric vehicle advocates want the sales numbers to appear, EVs have stopped growing and as a percentage of new cars. Affordable EV sales plateaued back in 2014. Now they are in decline.

Oddly, the best electric car design so far will hurt EV sales for years to come, and not just a little.

Tesla announced last night that its new 2017 Model 3 will go from 0-60 MPH in under six seconds have a 215-mile range (at least), will include Supercharger access, will have advanced active safety features standard, and will have a base price before incentives of $35,000. The problem is that it won't even begin to go on sale until late 2017.

Who in their right mind would go out and buy a BMW i3, Nissan Leaf, or even a Tesla Model S between now and then? All of these cars are a terrible deal compared to the coming Model 3. All three, including the base Model S, are slower.

The Leaf is the lowest-ranked green car for safety with a Poor IIHS small frontal overlap crash test and no active safety systems available (FCP or AEB). And has half the range of the coming Model 3. The BMW i3 is a fine vehicle, and we reviewed it positively, but it costs more than the coming Model 3, has a dramatically shorter range, and it is smaller. Those are facts. An opinion might be that the i3 looks like a goofball compared to the Model 3, and its dashboard is made of hay.

The newly-refreshed Nissan Leaf (now with greater range) sales were down about 30% in March. This is the Leaf's worst March sales result since 2012. In his speech last night at the reveal of the Model 3, Elon Musk spoke about Tesla’s mission being to advance sustainable transportation. At least for the coming two or three years, he just put the brakes on electric vehicles.

Image courtesy of Tesla Press Kit.


Jason (not verified)    April 1, 2016 - 12:04PM

Actually, comparisons to the Tesla Model 3 are not fact at all. When it's in production and not a hot mess of issues, THEN your comparisons will be very valid. Of course, Nissan, Chevy and BMW will have improved their cars by then now that they have a very clear target. Let's not forget the ridiculously stupid "falcon" doors of the Tesla SUV. Stupid, stupid design - engineering for engineering's sake with not benefit other than eliminating the roof rack.

Personally, I'll get the Bolt if I need a car soon and If I don't, then the Model 3 is absolutely something I'd consider...if it actually comes out and works at the price point they brag about.

Charlotte Omoto (not verified)    April 1, 2016 - 2:45PM

It is only in the US that EV sales have plateaued/declined. World wide, sales have increased ~80% with Europe almost doubling in sales, Canada increased 5X, and of course what really does it is China increasing almost 4X. So the question to ask is why EV sales in the US is bucking the worldwide trend.

John Goreham    April 1, 2016 - 3:46PM

In reply to by Charlotte Omoto (not verified)

Worldwide EVs are now selling at a rate of about 35,000 per month, up from about 25,000 per month this time last year. Those numbers include extended range EVs with gasoline engines like the Volt and REX i3. Parse the math anyway you like. It still does not come out to 5X or 8x of anything.

Charlotte Omoto (not verified)    April 1, 2016 - 8:40PM

In reply to by John Goreham

Here's the data, no parsing needed. China increased sale from >60k to >214k, western Europe from >102k to >184k, Canada from >1,500 to 5,284. It is because US had the largest share of EVs in 2014 and that it plateaued that the global increase is only 80%.

Harold Sogard (not verified)    April 2, 2016 - 12:12AM

There is absolutely NOTHING factual about the Model III until the it is actually delivered to paying customers. Based on Tesla's by now pretty well established pattern of behavior, the final car will be good but not as miraculous as promised in yesterday's PR extravaganza. It will also cost a lot more than promised yesterday, and it will be delivered a lot later than promised yesterday. In the meantime, it's not as if other manufacturer's of EV's will be standing still. Competition in EV's is a great thing for all, but dismissal of any of the participants based on pie-in-the-sky promises from Elon Musk helps no one.

John Blangi (not verified)    April 2, 2016 - 2:43PM

I think it will raise the bar considerably...and we'll see a host of new EV models..seeing that there is demand for exceptional products..

mike w (not verified)    April 3, 2016 - 7:07PM

Hurt sales of other EVs. maybe, or maybe not. There are 200,000+ reservation holders for the Model 3. If you don't have a reservation NOW you will not be buying one until after 2020. GM has the Volt and soon the Bolt and I'm sure they are already working on something better, so they have a leg to stand on. I don't know about the i3 and Nissan.

John Parker (not verified)    April 4, 2016 - 1:36AM

Sorry, but author is incorrect re: acceleration of the base model S (S70 RWD). It's acceleration is rated at 5.5 seconds 0 - 60 mph, faster than the Model 3's listed acceleration.

John Goreham    April 4, 2016 - 8:51AM

In reply to by John Parker (not verified)

Please cite your source for the Model 3's acceleration. Mine is Elon Musk's comments at the Model 3 launch when he said the Model 3 would go from 0-60 seconds in "Less than six seconds." How do you know the current base Model S will be quicker?