Don't let the price fool you -- Tesla says the Model S is not a luxury car

Don't call the Tesla Model S a luxury car.

A Tesla rep made it clear today that the Model S -- with a high-end trim that costs upward of $94,000 (not including electric vehicle tax credits) and jets from 0 to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds -- is a performance ride.

Diarmuid O'Connell, Tesla's vice president of business development, said the Model S is "competing based on performance" and that it was designed to be a great car in general, not just a great EV. O'Connell spoke during a conference call hosted by the Electrification Coalition, a Washington nonprofit.

Although Tesla won't put the luxury tag on the Model S, the vehicle is generating more sales than some well-known luxury models lately.

In a new report, the Electrification Coalition said that during the first quarter the Model S (about 4,500 in units sales) outsold the Audi A8 (1,462), BMW 7 series (2,338) and Mercedes-Benz S class (3,077) in the United States. In the first half of the year, it also grabbed 8.4 percent of the luxury market after moving more than 10,000 units, the report estimated.

Tesla does not report monthly U.S. sales results, only quarterly -- and wouldn't confirm the coalition's first-half estimate because the company hasn't disclosed its second-quarter figures.

But the numbers aren't bad for a car with a luxury price not labeled as luxury class.

O'Connell said the electrified element of the Model S -- offering a 265-mile range on its performance trim with an 85 kWh battery -- was supposed to be a bonus.

At the end of the day, he said "people are buying great cars which they want to perform for them.

"We define them as performance. We want to be offering the highest performance electric vehicles under our brand," he said. "The Model S is a conscious effort to achieve that."

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