Tesla’s November registrations surged, narrowing luxe race

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Tesla new-vehicle registrations in the U.S. surged in November, bringing the electric automaker closer to potentially dethroning BMW as the luxury sales champ, according to data from Experian.

The November numbers bring Tesla’s 11-month registrations to 303,246, Experian said Tuesday. BMW registrations for the same period were 318,182 and the German automaker reported total 2021 deliveries of 336,644. Sales and registrations, however, don’t track perfectly since a vehicle can be sold in one month and registered in another.

Tesla reported global deliveries, or completed retail sales, of 936,172 vehicles, for an 87 percent gain over 2020. It does not break out its U.S. sales, so registrations with state governments serve as a proxy for nationwide results.

The Experian data shows Tesla surging near year’s end. The automaker added 42,314 registrations in November. A similar performance in December would put Tesla ahead of BMW’s reported 2021 sales. Experian’s full-year registration data is expected next month.

BMW registrations for November showed a rise of 29,481 vehicles over October, Experian said. And BMW’s 11-month registrations were up 28 percent compared to the same period in 2020. Tesla registrations showed a 75 percent jump year-on-year.

“The numbers are too close to call at this moment as December will bring more volume, but it looks like there could be an upset,” said Jessica Caldwell, executive director of insights at Edmunds. “Even if Tesla doesn’t take the top spot, it is remarkable that they have risen to the top in a short period of time, considering collapse seemed entirely possible a few years ago.”

The Automotive News Research & Data Center estimated Tesla sales at 313,400 for the 2021 calendar year. And analysts have warned not to read too much into Tesla global sales in relation to the U.S. because much of the surge could be coming from China. But that caution appears to have underestimated Tesla’s booming U.S. sales out of its California factory.

Tesla fans on social media, some of whom calculate their own detailed sales projections, predicted an eventual win for the Texas-based automaker over BMW when the final numbers are out.

Twitter user @TroyTeslike estimated U.S. deliveries at 360,199 for 2021. That’s based on Model Y sales of 184,628, Model 3 sales of 151,884, Model S sales of 21,846 and Model X sales of 1,841.

Through November 2021, Experian put Model Y registrations at 153,707, Model 3 at 132,126, Model S at 15,519 and Model X at 1,894.

BMW and Mercedes have traded the U.S. luxury sales crown for the last decade. Lexus last triumphed in 2010, closing out its own decade of dominating the top spot. Last year, Lexus sold 304,475 vehicles, compared with 276,102 for Mercedes.

U.S. luxury sales have been substantially affected by the shortage of semiconductors that control everything from drivetrain management to heated seats. Automakers are selling every vehicle they can produce in the current environment.

Tesla’s rising production from factories in Fremont, Calif., and Shanghai suggest that it’s managing the semiconductor shortage better than rivals, according to industry analysts. And with new factories opening soon in Berlin and Austin, Texas, Tesla is likely to assume the top spot in luxury sales shortly, regardless of 2021 results, Caldwell said.

“Tesla’s incremental sales are a major contributor to the luxury market outpacing the new vehicle market as a whole,” she said. “Tesla isn’t just capturing the luxury consumer. It’s also offering something a bit different to lure in affluent consumers who may have not prioritized buying a Mercedes-Benz or BMW in the past, even if they could afford it.”

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