Tesla Model Y & Model 3 Top California Auto Sales in 2023 — Thanks, Cali!

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Tesla’s rapid growth and success have been seen more clearly in California than anywhere else. Considering California is the company’s birthplace, that’s not too surprising, but the extent of the company’s rise up the automotive ladder in The Golden State is actually jaw dropping. In general, Tesla has become a major automaker in the United States (the 8th largest in the country when it comes to 2023 vehicle sales), but in California, it’s truly in the top tier of the auto market and fighting for the #1 spot.

As a reminder, Tesla’s Fremont factory is now the largest auto factory in the United States in terms of annual vehicle production. Tesla’s first factory now produces more cars and SUVs per year than any Ford or GM factory in Michigan, more than Honda’s largest factory in Ohio, and more than Toyota’s Kentucky factory, which is Toyota’s largest auto manufacturing plant in the world.

A huge portion of the electric cars produced in Tesla’s Northern California factory are also delivered to residents of California. In fact, only one other auto brand sells more vehicles in California than Tesla. That’s Toyota, and Tesla is not actually very far behind it. Tesla had just about 48,000 fewer sales than Toyota in California in 2023 — 230,589 versus 278,345. Meanwhile, the Californian automaker had nearly 60,000 more sales than #3 Honda and more than 100,000 more sales than #4 Ford. Tesla had nearly as many sales as Ford and #5 Chevrolet combined in its original home state.

Perhaps the most shocking fact of all regarding Tesla’s California success, though, is where its two top models rank in the overall auto sales chart for the state. They are #1 and #2, which is impressive enough, but the shocking bit is how far ahead of the others they are. The Tesla Model Y had more than twice as many sales as the #3 Toyota RAV4 in 2023, and more than three times as many sales as the #5 Honda Civic. The #2 Tesla Model 3 wasn’t close to the level of the Model Y either, but it was still far ahead of the RAV4 and every other model. This actually raises some concerns for the future for me, but I’ll come back to those at the end.

If that wasn’t shocking enough, look at the top two Tesla models in comparison to the other top selling models in their vehicle classes.

That chart looks like a joke. The Model Y had nearly 10 times as many sales as the #2 Lexus NX and had more than 10 times as many sales as the #3 Audi Q5. They don’t compare.

Similarly, the Tesla Model 3 had nearly 10 times as many sales as the #2 model in its class, the BMW i4, which it’s good to see is now another electric car! The Model 3 also had nearly 10 times as many sales as the #3 Lexus ES and had more than 10 times as many sales as the #4 Mercedes-Benz C-Class. It’s one thing to say the Model 3 is the best selling vehicle in its class, but it’s another thing to show how far ahead the car is.

Once Tesla’s flagship vehicle, the Model S is still #1 in its class as well, beating out the iconic BMW 5 Series and Mercedes S-Class. Happily, we again have another EV in the top 5 for this class, the Mercedes EQS Sedan in 4th place.

The Tesla Model X has a lot of work to do to climb into the #1 spot in its class. Though, considering how many sales the Model Y achieves, perhaps we can give Tesla some slack on this one.

To wrap up, let’s look at the overall top selling cars and overall top selling SUVs and trucks in the land of milk and honey.

Even amongst cheaper and theoretically more mass market SUVs, the Tesla Model Y stands far above the crowd. It had more than twice as many sales as the second best selling SUV or truck in 2023, the Toyota RAV4, and more than three times as many sales as the 3rd best selling SUV, the Honda CR-V

The Model 3 had an easy win over the Toyota Camry, Honda Civic, Honda Accord, and Toyota Corolla.

But … has Tesla hit a ceiling in California? When you’re at the top, it can be hard to retain the crown. When you’re floating miles above the top, it’s hard to think there won’t be a bit of a drop at some point. Is selling that many Model Ys and Model 3s in California sustainable? There must be a dozen Teslas on every street corner now, and one can assume that at some point, they will hit a saturation point where new car/SUV buyers will be turning away from the most common vehicle on the road.

What do you think? Can Tesla top all these charts again in 2024? Is there any room for growth?

With California accounting for about 35% of Tesla’s US sales, if sales stall out a bit there, the company could be in big trouble. How much can Tesla find sales in other states in the coming years? Can it get anywhere close to the saturation level it’s at in California?

Core data source: Experian Automotive, via CNCDA

Related stories:

EV Sales Rise to 7.2% of US Auto Sales, Tesla 4.3% of Auto Sales

Top Automakers in EV Market Share in USA — Charts

Tesla Model Y’s Huge Growth in US Sales Visualized — Charts


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