The gap between Tesla, with its popular electric cars, and Germany's three premium carmakers continues to close. This is the main conclusion of last year's preliminary sales volume results. The massive push by governments around the world for electric cars certainly has a winner. And it's not the traditional brands.
Tesla Has Recharged
Once a niche manufacturer, Tesla is finally a millionaire automaker in terms of units sold. Last year, the US-based company delivered 1.31 million vehicles worldwide. For the first time since its creation a few years ago, the brand has exceeded the milestone of 1 million. But the most surprising part is the comparison with the volumes of 2021: deliveries have increased by 40 percent in a very complex global context.
And Tesla, which recently presented its Investor Day from its headquarters in Austin, Texas, without announcing new product launches, has set a sales target of 1.8 million units for 2023.
It was the Model 3 that first drove growth between 2018 and 2021. It has allowed Tesla to expand its presence in Europe and China. Once the company caught on with consumers, it introduced the Model Y, a car-like crossover, to continue the pace of growth. Since then, deliveries have not stopped growing. The volume grew 17-fold between 2016 and 2022.
Stalled Traditional Brands
On the other side, there are the traditional premium brands, led by the BMW Group, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi. They have dominated the premium car market for decades thanks to their ability to anticipate demand and offer a plethora of different models to suit all tastes.
Last year, BMW Group led this premium club with 2.40 million vehicles sold under its BMW, Mini, and Rolls-Royce brands. However, volume fell 5 percent due to demand woes in Germany and China, its two main commercial outlets.
Mercedes-Benz followed in second place which, unlike BMW, managed to increase sales by 5 percent to 2.04 million units. The performances, lower than those of Tesla, can be explained by the excellent results obtained in the United States, the second reference market.
Audi finished, as usual, in third place. With 1.61 million vehicles sold, the Ingolstadt-based house recorded a 4 percent drop in deliveries compared to 2021. The global decline is due to the Chinese division.
A Matter Of Time
Last year's ranking is an early indicator of how Tesla is preparing to change the status quo in the global premium car market. The company continues to expand its global presence through the opening of new plants, including the recently inaugurated Berlin facility and the newly announced Mexican facility.
At the same time, a small hatchback/crossover from Tesla is expected to be announced soon, and of course there is the Cybertruck arriving eventually. The EV brand wants a spot in entry-level and lucrative truck segments.
Meanwhile, German premiums are doing their best to improve the technology and performance of their cars so they can participate in the electric vehicle boom. However, recent data points to the opposite: Combined 2022 pure EV sales from Audi, BMW, and Mercedes totaled 483,200 units, or just 37 percent of Tesla's overall volume.
If the shift to battery-powered vehicles continues into 2023, Tesla is likely to overtake Audi by the end of this year. And it will be just the beginning of an electrifying race against what, to this day, the industry considers the technology trendsetter.
The author of the article, Felipe Munoz, is an Automotive Industry Specialist at JATO Dynamics.