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Tesla Model 3 World's Best-selling Electric Car 2021, Fourth Year In A Row

For the fourth consecutive year Tesla Model 3 has been crowned the best-selling electric car in the world: launched in 2017, it has been claiming this title on an annual basis since 2018, its first year in full production. However, its reign could end soon due to the rise of another top-selling fully electric superstar: the Model Y.

In 2021 Tesla's midsize SUV ranked third in the global electric car sales ranking. While the Model 3 accumulated a total of 500,713 units sold, the Model Y came not so far behind with 410,517. Between the two was the Wuling HongGuang Mini EV, which shipped 424,138 copies mainly in its home market, China. It is important to consider though that the Wuling HongGuang Mini actually belongs to a totally different ("Mini"...) category, as compared to both Model 3 and Model Y: it is a battery electric "ultra-mini" manufactured by SAIC-GM-Wuling since 2020.

It can basically seat four people, and standard features include air conditioning, power windows, stereo system, storage and compartments; and its standard safety features include anti-lock brakes, tire pressure monitoring sensors, rear parking sensors and some other details. In 2020, the Mini EV had a price starting at $4,162, and topped out at $5,607 for a fully-loaded model, making it China's cheapest electric car. As you can see, that second place claimed by the Wuling came at a ten times cheaper price as compared to Tesla models; thus the emphasis on the category difference.

Tesla Model 3, Courtesy of Tesla Inc.

Anyway, despite the good performance of the Model 3 in commercial terms we must take into account that the sedan segment is currently in free fall in the main world markets, while SUV sales continue to sharply increase. Elon Musk himself even stated at the time of its launch – semi-prophetically - that the Model Y would end up surpassing whatever selling records the Model 3, Model S and Model X might have… all combined.

Up until last year both Model 3 and Model Y were being produced in two Tesla factories, Fremont and Giga-Shanghai; however, by early 2022 the SUV has already begun to be produced at Giga-Berlin and Giga-Texas. Therefore, Model Y outputs will become much higher than that of its Model 3 older brother, which will most probably be surpassed in the very short term.

Tesla Model 3, courtesy of Tesla Inc.

According to an interesting article published on CleanTechnica website, "… the high-tide-mode Tesla Model 3 won another monthly best seller title, with over 86,000 deliveries, a new all-time record. Interestingly, though, if we look at the quarterly average, because that’s the proper way to look at Tesla performances, the Model 3 ends up being below the Model Y (52,000 units for the Model Y vs. 47,000 for the Model 3). So, in reality, the Model 3 could be winning its last monthly best seller titles, as the Model Y has greater potential to grow in 2022."

Tesla itself is prioritizing the Model Y over the Model 3, as it can be seen clearly: the SUV is being in charge of launching the company's latest advances in terms of industrial production processes: to give just one example, the Fremont and Giga Shanghai Model Ys have a rear frame made from a single casting, while those of Giga-Berlin and Giga-Texas will use the same solution on the front frame.

Tesla Model Y, courtesy of Tesla Inc.

The Model Y will also be the first Tesla to have structural batteries and to feature the advanced 4680 cells. Since it is competing in one of the most demanding categories in the international EV market (D-SUV or medium SUV), Tesla does not want to leave any loose end.

The rest of the manufacturers are following a very similar strategy, mainly due to the fact that the Model 3 can actually hardly have any direct rivals (BMW i4, Polestar 2), while those of the Model Y are already a legion (Audi Q4 e-tron, BMW iX3, Ford Mustang Mach-E, Hyundai IONIQ 5, Mercedes-Benz EQB and EQC, Nissan Ariya, Skoda Enyaq iV, Toyota bZ4X, Volkswagen ID.4 and ID.5). In any case, the outstanding performance of the Model 3 for a fourth year in a row is certainly very good news for Tesla once again.

You can check the numbers and rankings on CleanTechnica website right here.

All images courtesy of Tesla Inc.

Nico Caballero is the VP of Finance of Cogency Power, specializing in solar energy. He also holds a Diploma in Electric Cars from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, and enjoys doing research about Tesla and EV batteries. He can be reached at @NicoTorqueNews on Twitter. Nico covers Tesla and electric vehicle latest happenings at Torque News.