BMW barely won the registration race for luxury vehicles last year at 347,453, compared with 342,412 for Tesla, Experian reported last month. But that data also showed that Tesla had greater momentum, with a 71 percent sales gain last year compared with BMW's 24 percent growth.
Tesla has some advantages this year, analysts say, including a new Texas plant coming on line that will help it satisfy demand for its electric vehicles. Likewise, Tesla has said it's pushing output at its plant in Fremont, Calif., to as many as 600,000 vehicles this year, which would make it the biggest auto factory in the U.S.
Registration data is different from sales data, since a vehicle can be sold in one month and registered in another. And when exact registration numbers are unavailable, data providers make their best estimate.
For example, Lexus reported sales of 20,620 vehicles in January compared with Experian's registration data for the brand of 24,843. And last year, BMW's official sales data came in at 336,644, compared with Experian's registration numbers of 347,453.
But because Tesla does not break out its U.S. sales data — and reports global data on a quarterly basis — monthly U.S. registration data serves as a proxy for comparison.
Tesla's official sales numbers from last year showed an 87 percent increase globally to 936,172 vehicles. The company expects an increase this year of at least 50 percent, which would put deliveries above 1.4 million.
Tesla also has a new factory coming on line in Berlin this year to support that forecast.
According to Experian data from January, the Tesla Model Y was the top EV in the U.S. at 18,549 registrations, followed by the Tesla Model 3 with 13,604 and the Tesla Model S with 3,903.
In fourth place was the Ford Mustang Mach-E with 2,781 registrations, followed by the Nissan Leaf at 1,479 and the Hyundai Ioniq 5 at 1,253.
Volkswagen's ID4 was No. 7 with 1,153 registrations, followed by the Kia Niro electric at 1,146, the Tesla Model X with 1,106 and the Porsche Taycan rounding out the top 10 with 972 registrations.
Experian said total U.S. EV registrations rose by 62 percent in January to 50,384, vs. 31,174 a year earlier. That pushed EV share of the U.S. light-vehicle market to 4.3 percent in January, compared with 2.3 percent a year earlier.