Tesla's upward trajectory among premium brands is ready for a fresh boost with the start of production at its nearly finished plant in Austin, Texas. But the electric auto maker may have already snatched the U.S. luxury crown from BMW.
While the traditional top three luxury marques have posted their final U.S. sales for 2021, Tesla does not break out domestic sales from its global numbers. That means U.S. new-vehicle registration data, which lags several weeks behind sales, is needed to tell the full story of the year's luxury-market sales race.
Financial data firm Experian released the latest batch of U.S. registration numbers last week, corresponding to November. It paints a promising picture for Tesla in its battle with BMW, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz.
Tesla's November registration surge of 42,314 new vehicles brought its 11-month total to 303,246, Experian said. At the start of this year, BMW reported total 2021 sales of 336,644, beating Lexus at 304,475 and Mercedes at 276,102.
Sales and registration numbers don't track perfectly, since a vehicle can be sold in one month and registered in another. Through September for instance, BMW reported 179,982 sales, but Experian had counted 190,917 new BMWs registered with state governments.
"The numbers are too close to call at this moment, 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," Caldwell told Automotive News.
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.