For the naysayers who maintained that Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA) wasn’t going to make it, with the Model S too expensive to be successful, here is a fact worth reflecting on: in the first quarter, Tesla outsold comparable cars from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi.
Tesla moved 4,750 Model S units in the first fiscal quarter. Among the top three German luxury builders, the Mercedes S Class came in second with 3,077 units sold. BMW took third place with 2,338 7-Series sedans sold and Audi’s flagship A8 sold 1,462 cars, good for fourth place.
There are are few things to consider when looking at this data, which came courtesy of LMC Automotive. The three German cars all start at prices toward the top of the Tesla’s price ceiling, and no one who buys the BMW, Mercedes, or Audi get the $7,500 clean energy credit. Effectively, this makes the Tesla the cheapest car of the bunch. On the other hand, this is the pack that the Model S was intended to be running with.
While Tesla faced huge criticisms about the Model S being too expensive, which would result in a stagnancy of demand, it appears the concerns were unfounded, and that the demand is leading the segment. Given the company’s limitations as a start-up with a product that has yet to become mainstream, these figures are especially impressive.
Moreover, the Model S was never meant to be an affordable, mass market car; the company was never aiming to build the next GM Chevy (NYSE:GM) Volt or Nissan Leaf. The Model S was designed from the ground up as a luxury car, meant to compete with the likes of the 7 Series and A8.
The company’s business model suggests that as electric cars become more accepted, and concerns over range anxiety and other problems subside, the high cost of electric car technology will slope downward. And when that happens, Tesla will be ready and waiting with an entry-level, ballpark $30,000 model to market to the masses.
The trick Tesla has to pull now is maintaining the sales momentum it has built up — to show the world that electric cars can be a sustainable enterprise and not just a trending fad that will slow down to a trickle in the future. The company is already well on its way, with a crossover concept slotted for production in 2014, further whispers of a more affordable car down the road, and even a truck.
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