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Tesla’s US Deliveries Remain Nearly Flat As Toyota Hybrids Grow By 37%

Since 2018, Toyota’s American-market green vehicle deliveries have outpaced Tesla’s by a remarkable amount. Here is a detailed at look at why.


At the end of 2018, Tesla and Toyota both had about the same volume of deliveries of green vehicles in America. Since that time, Tesla’s US deliveries have barely crept up, while Toyota’s green vehicle deliveries have grown by more than a third.

Tesla’s US Deliveries Stagnate
According to Clean Technica’s January 1st, 2021 report, Tesla delivered approximately 204,274 vehicles in America in 2020. Clean Technica’s analysis has proven accurate in the past to within about 3-4% accuracy. If this estimate is correct, Tesla’s US deliveries increased from the 192,250 reported by Inside EVs for calendar 2019. A growth rate of about 6%.

This is not far off the volume of deliveries in America Tesla had in 2018 which Inside EVs reported on January 3rd, 2019 as being 191,627. The stalled pace of US Tesla vehicle deliveries over the past two years is usually attributed to Tesla focusing on its expansion of business outside of the United States, specifically in China and targeted European markets. One notable difference related to Tesla’s performance this year is that the state and local governments of California played a role in limiting Tesla’s deliveries. Of course, every automaker faced similar or greater challenges. So, an increase of 6% is commendable given the circumstances. Assuming the estimate is correct.

Delivery Data - Tesla vs. Toyota by John GorehamToyota’s Green Vehicle Deliveries Increase Steadily
By contrast to Tesla’s basically flat growth, Toyota’s American-market green vehicle deliveries have grown by 37% over the same period. Toyota’s two brands’ US green vehicle deliveries totaled 337,036 according to Toyota’s year-end report. That represents an increase for 2020 of just under 23% compared to 2019’s total of 274,572 and an increase of 37% compared to Toyota’s 2018 green vehicle deliveries of 213,354.

2020 Toyota hybrid deliveries chart courtesy of Toyota

As you can see from Toyota’s green vehicle delivery chart above, every possible detail is shown. Toyota has provided this type of data for years. Unlike Tesla and many other brands, Toyota does not try to hide its delivery data by model, market, or segment. It puts the facts on the table. Literally.

Toyota’s Hybrid Vehicle Popularity Grows - Toyota Makes Hybrid Powertrains Standard On Updated Models
Uninformed automotive publications often infer from the decline in Prius sales that the popularity of Toyota hybrid vehicles has waned. The opposite is actually true. Small cars like the Prius have fallen in popularity across all brands, all markets, and across nearly all segments. Shoppers have shifted their buying to crossovers, and Toyota’s rapidly-growing green vehicle sales reflect just how perfectly Toyota saw the market changes coming. The RAV4 Hybrid and Highlander Hybrid both outsell the Prius by a significant amount. The all-new Venza and Sienna, both of which are only available now with hybrid powertrains, also topped the Prius in December. All Toyota green crossovers and minivans have standard or optional all-wheel drive. In another example of Toyota adapting to changing customer preferences, Toyota also now offers AWD on the Prius.

Toyota Adds Green Models
Another way that Toyota Hybrids have been expanded is with regard to models. Toyota now offers a total of 18 green vehicles, including the plug-in hybrid-electric Prius Prime and RAV4 Prime. Toyota offers small cars, midsize cars, large cars, small crossovers, compact crossovers, midsize crossovers, midsize premium cars, large luxury cars, small premium crossovers, compact premium crossovers, midsize premium crossovers, and large luxury sports cars with green powertrains. No other automaker has a breadth of green products that can compare to Toyota.

Related Story: Tesla's Model Y Is Now Outselling Every Crossover Model At These Major Brands

Toyota’s Long History of Electrified Vehicle Sales In America
It should be no surprise that Toyota remains the leader in green vehicle sales in America. Toyota had a production battery-electric RAV4 EV crossover in California five years before Tesla was founded. During its three decades of sales, the Prius has been the best-selling car - among all cars - not just green cars, in such notable markets as California. Toyota’s newest green flagship, the third-generation electrified RAV4 Prime, is presently selling at or above MSRP. By contrast, Tesla has resorted to using sales promotion gimmicks such as free FSD, free Supercharger access, and outright new vehicle discounting to help boost deliveries during quarter-end pushes. Perhaps the most extreme example of the disparity in how shoppers value Toyota’s green vehicles versus other brands’ is the Chevy Bolt BEV being given away by GM at a loss with five-figure discounts.

Toyota’s Green Vehicle Future
There is a meaningful chance that successful lobbying by EVangelist groups and by automakers such as Tesla will result in battery-electric mandates in America that will eliminate all other green vehicle technologies in a future decade. It will be very interesting to see how Toyota will respond, should that come to pass. More importantly, how will automakers with so much less experience creating successful green cars fare in such a market?

Source Note: Torque News would prefer to use data supplied directly by Tesla. However, our focus is the U.S. market in this story, and Tesla does not supply a breakdown of its sales in the American market. Tesla also does not have a public relations department that responds to media requests. However, we did still reach out to [email protected] to request US delivery data. Lacking data fromTesla directly, we selected two electric vehicle advocacy publications as our sources of estimated Tesla US delivery numbers. Inside EVs stopped tracking US EV sales when it became apparent that US battery-electric sales had stopped growing in 2019, or we would have used that source for all of our Tesla numbers. We are aware that GoodCarBadCar makes Tesla estimates, but that publication has not updated its Tesla data and we are entering the third week of January. Having spoken with GoodCarBadCar's content creator, we are also a bit suspect of the accuracy of its Tesla data. The chart below from Tesla’s public webpage shows the company’s global delivery information. For reference, Toyota delivers more than 20X this number of vehicles each year.

Our Invitation To Tesla To Supply US Delivery Data: Here is part of the email we sent to Tesla’s PR contact in advance of publication: “I will be going to press with a story related to Tesla's US market deliveries in 2020. I'd like to ensure my data is as accurate as possible in order to present the clearest picture possible. If you would like to provide the total US-market deliveries for 2020 that would be very helpful. Also helpful would be that same data point for 2019 and 2018. If you wish to provide a model-line breakdown that would also help add clarity. To be clear, I am already in possession of the global deliveries. I need US-market Tesla deliveries for my story. Any help is much appreciated.”

John Goreham is a long-time New England Motor Press Association member and recovering engineer. Following his engineering program, John also completed a marketing program at Northeastern University and worked with automotive component manufacturers. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American newspapers and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on Twitter, and view his credentials at Linkedin


DeanMcManis (not verified)    January 12, 2021 - 3:54AM

I always wonder what are your motivations for trying to make Tesla look comparatively bad all the time. You have doing this for years now. Nobody else could reasonably view Tesla's unrivaled success as a failure, the way that you paint it by revealing only part of the information. Toyota (like VW, GM, Ford, Hyundai) sells millions of vehicles. And now they are offering more of their best selling vehicles with a hybrid option, and for a couple models, a plug-in hybrid version, but still not one full electric model in the U.S. Tesla, on the other hand has always only sold BEVs. Toyota (like many legacy automakers) has been making excuses why they cannot build BEVs competitively. As opposed to engineering a way around the shortcomings of electric vehicles, as Tesla is doing. Actually, considering Toyota's typical Japanese corporate conservatism, they are moving quickly and boldly into electrified vehicles. And I have always praised Toyota relative to other legacy automakers like Chrysler who produce NO EVs, but have only one PHEV and nothing else yet. It is better to offer a fleet of hybrids rather than one single EV model, sold in low volumes. Ironically, all of the legacy Japanese automakers are going to be driven to produce EVs by 2030-35 when a ban on the sale of polluting vehicles in Japan begins.

Toyota President Akio Toyoda said that if Japan banned gasoline-powered cars, and moved to electric vehicles too hastily, “the current business model of the car industry is going to collapse.”

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga pointed to a different portion of Mr. Toyoda’s comments in which the Toyota chief said he backed the government’s goal of making Japan carbon-neutral by 2050. Reducing carbon emissions “should be tackled as a strategy for growth, not as a limitation on growth,” Mr. Suga said. And I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Suga.

John Goreham    January 12, 2021 - 9:00AM

In reply to by DeanMcManis (not verified)

My motivations to cover green vehicles go all the way back to the 1990s. I studied green vehicles and participated in an EV build as my fifth-year project in my engineering program. Unlike some green vehicle enthusiasts, I don't have one preferred technology. My primary interest is in cars that are practical, affordable to mainstream buyers, and which bring joy to their owner. So many publications pander to Tesla. Do I really need to help with that? Unlike the top writers and the owners of many green vehicle publications, I don't have a financial stake in any of the companies I cover. So, I am not motivated by personal investments in my coverage. Look closely at my work on balance and you will see that I cover all aspects of the automotive world. I highlight Toyota's recent reliability challenges and that brings me great traffic. Few question my motivations writing those stories. One of my evergreen stories was a story about a popular Ford model being branded a lemon. When the RAV4 was failing an important safety test, I covered that topic. Why are only the Tesla fans surprised when someone writes anything other than a fawning love letter? I guess the easiet answer is I'm not an advocate. I'm just a person writing about vehicles who likes to create content few others dare to. Sometimes. Most of my work is very similar to my peers.

DeanMcManis (not verified)    January 13, 2021 - 8:35PM

Sorry John. Your history of stories does not prove your ideal of being objective. Generally about 90% of your EVs stories frame Tesla negatively, or comparatively poor. That is not the same as being objective.

Edward H de Jong (not verified)    March 20, 2021 - 7:53PM

I like Elon. But I happen to have studied the Auto biz pretty closely. My father in 1970 started a company in his garage called Electric Motion Control with a local CalTech professor R.D. Middlebrook, and his invention was intended for electric vehicles. He thought gas was too expensive at 30 cents a gallon… anyway fast forward to 2021, and there is a worldwide surplus of car factories. There is no way that Elon will take more than 20% of the world auto market. There are too many national interests which will prevent his dominating this industry. Yes, he will be a big player in the car biz, but that will only be worth so much. Electric cars are easy to make. It's a battery, motor, controller, and chassis basically.

Elon has bungled the Solar City firm. SpaceX which is his pet project, is filled with great engineers stolen from NASA and other aerospace firms that never did anything. He is doing great work there. But that is a separate company, and as it is his pet project, he will give it more attention, and his car firm may stumble.

Elon's management style is not one based on delegation, and we all know that there are limits to a dictatorial style. In Germany which is the largest car market in Europe, Tesla model 3 is down to #3 in the EV sales charts. The other countries of the world will conspire against Tesla and limit his market share. You are delusional if you think his success in California is going to be repeated everywhere. The NIU company in China will in all likelihood become a bigger firm than Tesla. They have Chinese government backing; Tesla will never be permitted to take big share in Asia, due to politics alone. The auto biz is the crown jewel of Japan's industrial empire, do you honestly think that they will just roll over and surrender? That Toyota is asleep at the wheel?

So if you consider their endgame to be 20% of the market, their current stock price is not justifiable at all. Telsa has 3% of the global passenger car market and about 18% of the EV market. Have you seen the Ford electric transit van? the VW ID Buzz? There are dozens of well-funded startups, using the same technology.

IBM had the first mass-market PC, and they ended up getting squeezed out of the industry when it became a commodity. Regardless of how good an American product is, it is discriminated against across the world. I lived in Brasil, and imported cars there have a whopping 100% import duty. So you either build in Brasil, or write off their 200 million person market. By the end of 2021 Tesla will have 3 factories: Berlin, Fremont, and China operating, with Texas under construction. In the meantime there will be probably 20 competing factories cranking out electric cars operating by end of 2021 by his competitors: Kia Soul, VW Id.4, Buzz, Ford transit (2022), Mercedes, Porsche, etc.

It's entertaining to imagine that an American firm can conquer the world, but I have done business in NL, Japan, and America, and the rest of the world doesn't like Americans very much and are certainly going to do their best to throw some monkey wrenches into Elon's grand plans.