Much ado was made by the auto press early last month when the Tesla Model S electric luxury sedan was the best-selling model in Norway in September. October’s figures are out, and last month’s volume tells a different story with 98 Model S deliveries, or 0.8 percent share of all passenger vehicle sales in the country that month, compared to 616 in September, or 5.1 percent market share for that month.
Norwegian sales of the critically acclaimed American-made luxury electric car are being watched closely as Tesla plants its flags across Western Europe to see how well it does in what seems like a bespoke market for Tesla: a country with lots of rich, environmentally conscious consumers who have embraced sustainable development. Tesla’s performance in Norway, as well as other progressive Northern European economies, is vital to its global expansion.
The big drop in sales volume last month suggests that September, the first month after Tesla began delivering its product in Europe in earnest, was stacked with pre-order fulfillment, representing months of business from early adopters in one of the most electric-car-friendly countries in the world. EV buyers are given generous tax breaks and other perks, such as free parking and ferry service. It also helps Tesla that Norway has one of the world’s highest per capita incomes (it’s ranked fourth by the World Bank), meaning a relatively high percentage of EV buyers with deep pockets.
Palo Alto, Calif.-based Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) will present its third-quarter earnings on Tuesday after markets close in New York. Analysts will look for the following: how much Tesla is spending as it ramps up production and deliveries worldwide, the progress on widening its gross margin from auto sales alone, any hiccups in the supply chain and, of course, the number of cars it sold in the quarter. Tesla doesn’t reveal monthly sales data like other auto companies, so real numbers only come out in the earnings reports.
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Until then, any estimates on the company’s third-quarter sales volume are just that. Norway and Holland auto associations have added the Model S to their monthly sales reports, so we know the company has delivered 1,117 Model S sedans (906 in Norway, 211 in The Netherlands) since the start of the year through October -- most of these delivered in this current quarter. Norway’s October data isn’t out yet, but in September it reported 42 Model S sales so far.
Germany doesn’t separate Tesla from general monthly sales data. The country reported 978 EV sales in October. German auto registration data for October isn’t available yet, but we know from earlier official data that at least 98 Model S registrations were on the books in September. Britain, another major European market for Tesla, also doesn’t provide specifics on models that sell low volume. The next auto sales report from the U.K.’s Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders will be out on Wednesday. September data show consumers bought 430 purely electric vehicles in the U.K. but only 92 of all passengers cars bought that month were classified as “Other Imports,” the category that Tesla would fall under. Outside of Europe, Tesla said last month it had more than 300 pre-orders in Hong Kong. Since Tesla only recently went global, we can be relatively certain the total sales volume for the third quarter ended Sept. 30 will easily top 6,000, up from 5,150 units in the second quarter.
If volume tops 7,000 in the quarter while maintaining some growth in margins from the sale of the Model S alone (separate from the sale of California Zero Emission Vehicle credits to other automakers, which boosts Tesla’s gross margin), the markets will hail the quarter a success because it would mean the company is in line to more than exceed its guidance of 21,000 unit sales in 2013.
Note: The story was corrected to say Germany registered 978 EVs. The original story said this data include hybrids. A reader pointed out that this is incorrect. Germans call EVs "elektrofahrzeug" and while in some cases the term "electric vehicles" includes both BEVs (battery electric vehicles, such as the Tesla, the Nissan Leaf and the BMW i3) and PHEVs, plug-in electric cars with gas engines, such as the Chevy Volt, the German data of 978 is referring to BEVs, though the tally does not list by specific models.