Mention a BMW 7 Series, Mercedes-Benz S-Class or Audi A8 within earshot of any Tesla fan and you’ll almost immediately hear a claim that the Model S is the best-selling luxury car in America. Tesla itself likes to boast about the same so-called “fact”. However, that claim is technically false and the Tesla Model S is not the best selling luxury vehicle. The reason is that the Model S always has its sales figured compared with the BMW 7 Series and Mercedes S-Class, but the Model S is not a full-sized luxury car.
Doug Demuro, on his own new column, Oversteer on Autotrader, breaks it down for us.
Has the Model S outsold the 7 Series, S Class and A8 in America so far this year? Yes, no question. During the third quarter of 2016, Tesla sold 9,156 Model S’, which is more than the S-Class (4,921), 7 Series (3,634) and Audi A8 (1,030). However, the Model S does not compete in that segment.
The length of a Tesla Model S? 196 inches. The BMW 7 Series? 205 inches. That means that the 7 Series is nearly 10 inches longer than the Model S. It also has significantly more legroom and headroom for its passengers and far more luxury. The Model S, as nice and impressive as it is, isn’t in the same class of car as the 7 Series, S Class or A8. The length of a BMW 5 Series? 196.8 inches. So even the BMW 5 Series is ever-so-slightly larger.
Then, there’s the price. Starting price of the BMW 7 Series is $82,500, while the Model S starts out at $66,000. The Model S tops out at $134,500 without extra options, while the 7 Series tops out at $138,000 (Alpina B7) without additional options. BMW 5 Series starting price? $50,000. So the Model S is closer to the 5er in price than the 7er.
In terms of size, luxury and pricing, the Tesla Model S does not compete with the BMW 7 Series, S-Class or any other full-sized luxury car. Instead, it actually competes with mid-size luxury cars, because that’s exactly what it is, a mid-size luxury car. In terms of size, pricing, equipment and luxury, the Tesla Model S is actually in line with the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Audi A6. And, if you compare its sales figures with those cars, the Model S is not the best-selling luxury car.
At the moment, the Tesla Model S is the second-best selling mid-size luxury car, behind the first place Mercedes-Benz E-Class’ 14,672 units for the third quarter. However, that doesn’t tell the whole story. The aging F10-generation BMW 5 Series, which is due to be replaced sold 7,430 units and when the new G30 5er debuts, expect it to crest 15,000 in its first quarter, as that’s what the F10-en did when it first came out. According to Demuro, even the new Hyundai Genesis sells 2,500 units a month, which is closing in on the Model S quickly.
So, in no way is the Tesla Model S the best-selling luxury car in America, because the only class that it outsells is one it doesn’t compete in. And, the class that it competes in, it’s just barely in second place. So, as much as the Model S is a great car and an impressive one, the claim that it’s the best-selling luxury car in America is simply untrue.