By on April 29, 2013

It’s a headline you might have seen in the past couple days: “Tesla Model S outsells Nissan Leaf (or Chevrolet Volt, you pick)”. To the layman, the story is that this amazing car from an amazing American upstart company is outselling lowly Chevys and Nissans to become America’s favorite EV. The angrier among us may wonder how a car that costs twice that of a Leaf or a Volt can outsell them both. TTAC just wants to know how any media outlet can make this comparison in the first place.

Like every other auto maker, Nissan and GM reports sales on a monthly basis, broken down by nameplate. Tesla, on the other hand, only reports on Model S “deliveries” each quarter (when they report their quarterly earnings). Nobody is really sure what that means, and everybody wants to know why Tesla doesn’t just report sales like everybody else. They haven’t given a good answer either.

Of course that hasn’t stopped outlets from the New York Post prematurely crowning the Model S as the winner of 2013’s Q1 plug-in car sales race. The Post says that

Tesla, worth less than $6 billion, is expected to deliver at least 4,750 of its Model S vehicles in the quarter, a spokeswoman told Bloomberg.

While we’ll know whether the Volt outsold the Leaf (and vice versa) on April 1, we won’t know until May 8th to find out how the Model S did. And even then, Tesla will only announce how many “deliveries” it made, and may not even say whether those are in the United States or globally. Either way, none of the big three EVs look to be coming close to the overly rosy predictions that were once imagined.


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51 Comments on “Media Reporting Tesla Model S As Plug-In Sales Champion: O RLY?...”

  • avatar

    The NY Post is the same Murdoch rag that was reporting 12 dead and that it was Muslim terrorists before the smoke had even cleared in Boston.

    The level of, ehem, “journalism,” at the Post, makes the defunct World Weekly News look like The Economist in comparison sometimes.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah! They were supposed to report it was Tea Party members until the obvious became inescapable. You do know the bombing was by muslim terrorists by now, right?

      • 0 avatar

        Actually – I don’t give a rip who did it – I want them to hang. You totally missed the point. To run a story online maybe two hours after the incident that 12 were dead (when everyone else was saying 2) and that is was foreign funded terrorists (not home grown – the younger was in the US longer than he was in Russian, they weren’t even born in Chechnya, and if the Russians wanted the older brother THAT bad why did he walk in and then out of the country).

        Responsible journalism includes, oh I don’t know – maybe having some – facts – before actually reporting a story. The NY Post has a long history of just throwing whatever sticks on the wall.

        I really don’t care if the bombing was done by surly one legged Latino midgets with connections to the Irish mafia who are upset over an export ban of termites from the Congo and have a fear of jogging shoes. I just want justice. But hey, thanks for taking a truthful observation and turning it into a political platform. So classy.

        • 0 avatar

          “… was done by surly one legged Latino midgets with connections to the Irish mafia who are upset over an export ban of termites from the Congo and have a fear of jogging shoes…”

          [lollypop guide voice]
          De Gringo, he is onto us, we mus’ eliminate heem
          [/lollypop guide voice]

    • 0 avatar

      not for nothing but every other media outlet pronounced it was some angry white christian right-wing male responsible before the smoke had cleared. They (NPR, CNN, NBC etc…) were positively sullen to find out that islamic fundamentalists were yet again at fault. NY Post nailed that one.

      • 0 avatar

        “not for nothing but every other media outlet pronounced it was some angry white christian right-wing male responsible”

        Just out of curiosity, which ones? I have not seen this alleged description in print.

        • 0 avatar

          Have a ball with these links.

          • 0 avatar

            Let’s see, Michael Moore? When did he become “MSM” like NPR or NBC?

            And I looked at the next 3 links, which absolutely did NOT “pronounced that it was some angry white christian right-wing male responsible before the smoke had cleared.”

            Salon certainly did say that they HOPED it would be such, and they explained why, but they didn’t infer that it is. The Axelrod video jumped in one place… words missing?

            Done with SheepDog. I am unimpressed with them and unimpressed with you that you’d use them as a source.

          • 0 avatar


            A list of links can be difficult to navigate. Here’s one, to keep you from overtaxing your faculties.

            Just kidding. I recognize your propaganda tactics of saying you looked at the list and pretending to have found cause to dismiss it. Wolf Blitzer mainstream enough?

            http://www dot youtube dot com/watch?v=yJXo2UnMt14

          • 0 avatar

            Wow… Wolf Blitzer says, “Maybe it has something to do with Patriot’s Day?”


            As in, get real. Just because it’s a bomb, we’re legally required to immediately think “Al Qaeda” and ignore all the other possibilities?

            It was also Tax Day, as Axelrod pointed out, in a sentence that ended with, “we don’t know.” There’s plenty of anti-government rhetoric and tinfoil hat nutjobs out there. Are journalists and pundits legally prohibited from giving them ten seconds’ thought?

            The fact of that matter is, you steered us to a bunch of crap. Thanks for wasting our time.

          • 0 avatar

            Those are quite a bit of a stretch to prove the original claim. No one ever “pronounced” it that way.

            Conjecturing that a bombing on April 15 could be tax-related when you have no other information is just that.

            There have been plenty of terror plots by right-wing nutjobs. There have been plenty of terror plots by left-wing nutjobs, although that was more in the 60s, than currently. There have been plenty of terror plots by Muslim nutjobs. All that tells you is that nutjobs are often related to terror plots.

            Do you think it would be stupid to conjecture that a bombing on 4/20 is possibly related to Columbine-worshiping nutjobs?

            Plenty of news outlets blamed some Indian guy who wasn’t even involved because there were some claims of a guy with dark skin. These Chechens are white, yo.

      • 0 avatar

        “were positively sullen to find out that islamic fundamentalists were yet again at fault. NY Post nailed that one.”

        NYPOST didnt nail ****. They just got lucky. A Saudi Arabian resident was detained at the scene on suspision that he commited the act. NYPOST was refering to this detainee when they claimed it was an act of islamic fundamentalists. That said, I like NYP and access the website everyday. They do quite a few investigative journalistic type pieces.

        On topic: good to see Tesla selling in decent numbers. Don’t care much for Mr Musk, but the Model S is damn fine machine. It is very impressive when you compare it to the ELR. ELR shares the Volt platform and battery tech allowing to spread the costs much better. GM also sells boatloads of high margin Trucks and SUV’s which can better subsidize EV sales. Despite all that the Model S costs about the same as what the ELR will cost. Pretty impressive indeed.

    • 0 avatar

      Presumably Mr.Murdoch just bought a boatload of Tesla shares, and now his hacks are tasked with raising its price?

  • avatar
    George Herbert

    My impression was Tesla were preselling so much it was hard to figure out when to recognize the sale, whereas the shipped car is rather singularly dated.

    But I’m just a hanger-on around here, not a car sales pro.

  • avatar

    Seems like given that Tesla has no resellers, that “deliveries” is a more honest way of reporting their product sales.

    After all, the rest of the industry gets to play games with this, because they DO NOT sell cars to the end user. They sell cars to resellers, who then sell them on. They may engage in some creative financing along the way (floorplanning, etc), but ultimately WE are not their customer, the dealer is.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree with you on the definition of delivery almost certainly being at least as real as the sales reported by most manufacturers. The only question is the domestic percentage of deliveries. If Tesla is serving export markets, then those deliveries should be accounted for differently, just as Japanese Leaf sales don’t count in Nissan USA’s model rankings.

      The major issue is releasing their figures quarterly instead of monthly, which is the standard. Tesla doesn’t want to open up the consistency of their production to scrutiny. If they have a prolonged line stoppage for a running change or other issue, they want to average out the impact rather than have a bunch of stories about their sales stalling. Alternatively, if they run out of customers with the combination of money and priorities required to buy one, they can sell equity in the company before the public is the wiser.

  • avatar

    So who are we angry at, the New York Post or Tesla? Tesla’s sales reporting is not illegal and the Media have a rep for spewing out agenda driven half truths so no surprises there. Awareness is fine, angry, not worth it.

  • avatar

    If you order a Model S today, it will be delivered to you in 2-3 months. Other than demonstrators, there is no inventory. So krhodes1 is correct in saying that Tesla “deliveries” are, in effect, the same as sales as reported by the rest of the industry.

  • avatar

    “The angrier among us may wonder how a car that costs twice that of a Leaf or a Volt can outsell them both.”

    If the Model S really is outselling Leafs and Volts, here’s how:

    1. Vehicle sales don’t follow price only. F-150s outsell everything else, including tin can cars and gas mileage champs. The Porsche 911 outsells the Nissan Cube.

    2. Maybe Tesla buyers want less range anxiety than you get with a Leaf.

    3. The Model S is a really nice car, and quicker than almost anything you can buy. People like that.

    • 0 avatar

      Building on what gslippy said, battery electrics are toys. You can’t just go drive even 100 miles in a day in any direction with the LEAF. So these things are basically highly limited toys, and not something most of us are going to buy as a first car, or even, in many cases, a second car. Nonetheless, unlike with a LEAF, with a Tesla, you can spend several hours winding around in the coast range of California, or the byways of Vermont.

      Bottom line: people with serious money aren’t going to be interested in the LEAF or the Volt. People lacking serious money are much more likely to have a single car per driver in the family, and so are likely to need practicality. Hence, I can easily imagine the Tesla outselling the leaf and the volt.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m not sure how the Leaf’s daily range – which is suitable for something like 90% of all use cases in the US – makes it a toy. Other than the infinite range you imply it needs, it performs as well as any other car on the road.

        • 0 avatar

          Well said – thanks. I too and confounded by people who insist on calling a car that meets 90% of their needs – without any gasoline at all – a toy. The vast majority of 2-car households could see a huge benefit by replacing the main commuter with a LEAF.

      • 0 avatar

        Another thing to consider is that the Tesla’s price is similar to other cars in it’s segment. It’s 0-60 performance is close to an S600 or a Panamera 4S – both of which have prices close to the Model S. So, in a way, they’ve sort of eliminated the EV price penalty.

        The Leaf, Volt, and other plug-ins cost more than other vehicles in their size and equipment class, so you still pay an EV penalty. That limits their sales to EV enthusiasts willing to pay the extra money because that’s their preferred drivetrain – and they’re willing to pay extra for it.

  • avatar

    There are several electric car spots at the Harris Ranch, which is at the CA-198 exit on I-5, only a few miles past the mid-way point between SF and LA. It is probably the only nice place to eat on I-5 between, say, Santa Clarita and I-580. The rest is fast food and run-down-looking places, for the most part.

    This weekend, I saw one Tesla parked there when I got there. It was gone when I left, but another Tesla was parked in the spot next to it. I also saw one on I-5 while driving.

    They seem to be popular in the Silicon Valley area, as I’ve mentioned before, and I saw a few in LA too.

    • 0 avatar

      Same here up in the North East. I know I have seen one Leaf, a few Volts over the last year or so. I have already seen three different Tesla S models.

    • 0 avatar

      “They seem to be popular in the Silicon Valley area”

      I saw about a dozen here over the weekend. Volts seem almost as common but are less striking so less noticeable. Leafs are so numerous they’ve become as anonymous as Prii.

    • 0 avatar

      I think the Model S is almost common around SF. It might be that its a good looking car so I actually notice it, but I see more of them than Volts and Leafs combined.

    • 0 avatar

      They are also getting pretty common in Microsoft’s back yard on the Eastside of Seattle – I probably see 2-3 per week. I’d get one myself if I had the funds.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m no tree hugger, but I really admire the technology in these cars, so I always keep my eyes peeled for them when on the road.

      I saw my first Tesla Model S in the wild about a week ago going down Forest Hill Blvd near Wellington, Florida. (This is near West Palm Beach, which is South Florida fairly close to Miami, for those unfamiliar with my neck of the woods).

      I’ve seen one or two Volts.

      I have seen two Fisker Karmas, one on 95 south near West Palm Beach and the other in Miami.

      Surprisingly, I’ve seen zero Leafs in the wild.

      South Florida, as I have mentioned before, likes unusual, expensive cars. So it’s not surprising to see more of the upscale models (Tesla/Fisker) than the cheaper ones (Leaf/Volt).

      However, I will note that the Volt is very easy to confuse with the Cruze. There have been a lot of times when I thought I saw a Volt and it turned out to be a Cruze. I’ve seen a lot of Jaguar XFs and initially thought they were Tesla Model S, but I’m certain of my Model S sighting. It had the giant Tesla logo all over it and the color looked like Signature Red.


  • avatar

    Who gives a sh*t ?. All these cars are crap anyways.

    When I was a kid I thought “The Future” meant I’d be going to work at my job at Spacely Sprockets in a flying car, and that I’d have a robot maid at home.


    Back then Chrysler had jet powered cars that were being driven by real people out on the road, and the turbine powered cars were supposed to be the next big thing at Indy and in road racing.

    Now we’ve got ugly electric powered cars like the Leaf instead, pushed on us by the granola munching enviro-weenies, that look like golf carts.

    This isn’t the future they promised me, this SUCKS.

    I don’t want an electric car that attracts hipster douchebags, cheap-assed middle aged nerdy white males, and women with mustaches. I want a real man’s car instead, two lanes wide, two blocks long, and burning hydrocarbons like God intended. If God had wanted us to drive electric cars he wouldn’t have killed off all those dinosaurs so we could have gasoline and diesel powered cars.

    Electricity is for vacuum cleaners, tooth brushes, and can openers, NOT CARS.

  • avatar

    While I’m on my rant I want to mention two other bad nightmares too, the Juke and the Cube.

    You know how when you eat a lot of corn and 24 hours later you go and take a dump and you look down in the bowl after you’re done and you see your poo with randomly scattered bits of corn all through it ?. That’s what the front end styling of the Juke looks like.

    The Cube on the other hand looks like a damned fish tank on wheels. I’m suprised they haven’t come out with a Yellow Submarine edition Cube yet with black lights and clown fish behind the windows.

    • 0 avatar

      I think you just don’t like Nissans.

    • 0 avatar

      I failed to read where Juke or Cube was mentioned in this article so, I guess, your pre school toilet humor is misplaced and out of line.
      Hope you feel better though for taking the “most immature comment of the hour” award home.

    • 0 avatar

      Beauty is in the eye of the Beholder.

      Or something like that. The Juke, aside from issues I have with the rear of the greenhouse (something that it has in common with the GT-R), is a cohesive design that’s simply not conventional, whereas the Cube is actually fun and funky.

      In a market where car design was often slavishly conservative, the Cube was a breath of fresh air.

      • 0 avatar

        Saw a black Juke come hurtling towards me out of the pack at a stoplight yesterday. Old state highway at the edge of town, heavily patched surface made the Juke roll a little as it “juked” into the left lane and ran away from everybody. Damn thing actually looked bad-ass and burly in motion like that.

  • avatar

    Just curious. Why are you so angry about electric cars?

    • 0 avatar

      What are you talking about, the author says nothing bad about electric cars, it just questions the way the company reports its sales.
      I’m sure you wouldn’t have posted had the article been about a startup ICE company.

  • avatar

    Around here (suburban NJ near NYC) there are many Teslas. I see far more of them than Volts, for instance.

    Accidentally discovered the Tesla prep area recently — many many Teslas being readied for delivery.

    Anecdotally, doing well in this area.

  • avatar

    I think the Post did exactly as intended – stir up crap amongst “eco-weenies” about the “EV wars”. Edit: Yes, it was taken from a Bloomberg interview.

    To their glee, someday maybe a Leaf/Volt owner and a Model S owner will get into a knock-down-drag-out over the use of a charging station.

    • 0 avatar

      Unlikely since the Tesla uses it’s own proprietary connector, so only they can plug into the Tesla FREE supercharger. There are adapters so that they can use the common standard charger but that would mean the owner would have to make sure they kept them in the car and dug them out when needed.

  • avatar

    First of all, this didn’t start with the NY Post. As far as I know it started with a Bloomberg story last week, and they at least went to the trouble of getting North America sales numbers for the Volt from GM and using them in the comparison with Tesla instead of just the US sales.

    Second, at least from my perspective (and I wrote about it the other day), it’s more a story about the Volt and about mass-market electric cars generally than it is about Tesla. (The Model S is selling well. The Volt and Leaf aren’t, so much, given expectations scaled to vehicle class and price and etc. Why? Discuss.)

    Third, Tesla does things in their own weird ways, but I’m very willing to bet that that “at least 4750” number will stand up to scrutiny.

  • avatar

    There’s just no way the Tesla has, can or will outsell the more affordable and practical EV/PHEVs.

    If Tesla hangs onto 6 months worth of production and delivers them all at once, it doesn’t count as “outselling” the other cars as it’s deliberately cherry picking the data points for the sake of a media circle jerk.

    • 0 avatar

      Tesla’s not holding on to any production. You won’t find parking lots filled with Model Ss anywhere.

      See my post above; there are several reasons the Model S could outsell cheaper cars; it happens every day in other market segments.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      I think other folks have already given a reason why Tesla will outsell other “practical” EVs (an oxymoron if there ever was one).

      PHEVs are another matter entirely . . . The problem with PHEVs, including the Volt, is that, for most people, the price premium over a “regular” hybrid really doesn’t get you much, whether you measure “much” in lower operating costs, cool factor or performance. And, as we know, the PHEV that competed at Tesla’s end of the market — the Fisker Karma — is a dinosaur. Arguably, it did have the cool factor and performance . . . but the execution was pretty bad, apparently.

      The thing about the Tesla is this: people in the income range where buying a Tesla is economically realistic do not travel long distances by car. They do not drive from New York to Washington. They take the plane, or the Acela, business class. Having done it many, many times over the past 40 years, I will say that the drive from New York to Washington sucks. And making the drive in a really cool car doesn’t make it suck any less. So, the range of the Tesla and the time it takes to recharge the vehicle (without destroying the battery in two years) is really pretty much of a non-issue. It has sufficiently more range than the Leaf to be able to make day trips, which, I think is what most drivers in this economic stratum want out of a car. That and the cool factor, and the performance.

      Of course the fact that the Tesla (may) succeed in this part of the market is NOT an argument for the viability of electric cars as a mass-market product. The mass market uses cars much differently than the top 0.5%.

  • avatar

    Can’t comment on the VOLT, but the reason why the Model S will outsell the LEAF this quarter is because you couldn’t buy a new leaf for love or money in the past couple months. As they shifted production to the US, there was a drought of new cars for Jan/Feb/March. And since the 2013 is so much better (cheaper and with better range), nobody wanted the leftover 2012s, and instead decided to wait until the 2013s come in – which is only finally happening now.

    I have two friends who both have been on informal waiting lists for the 2013 LEAF at local dealers – they just don’t have the cars to sell yet. Which means that, yes, this quarter the Model S will beat the LEAF. (Which is great – I think the Model S is fabulous.)

    As for the Volt – I guess it’s just not selling? Or is there some curious bottleneck with that as well?

  • avatar
    Nicholas Weaver

    Tesla’s “Deliveries” do represent actual sales, since they are going with a preorder, direct to consumer model to the greatest degree possible. You can’t channel stuff when you are selling directly.

    And Tesla’s market is “those who would buy or lease a second S-class”, and as a SECOND “see, I have too much money” luxo-barge, the Model S stomps everything else in the market: The looks are fantastic, the range is more than enough for the second car, and really, which would you rather have?

    An S-class or 7 series which, to the undiscerning eye, has the same logo as a $30K lease-special C-class or 3-series, or something which costs less AND screams out “I have a [email protected]#)(*-ton of money”?

    Not to mention impressively stonkin performance.

  • avatar

    Well, since Tesla does not take payment until delivery, then it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that deliveries = sales.

    Or am I mistaken in my logic?

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