Could Tesla Replace BMW as the Top Luxury Brand in the U.S. for 2021? Maybe

At first glance, it appears BMW retained the title of top-selling luxury vehicle brand in the U.S. for a second consecutive year. 

2022 BMW X3 driving
BMW took the top spot in U.S. luxury sales for 2021 with the X3 leading the charge.

Mercedes-Benz and Lexus — as they have for a decade or more — round out the top three spots: for now. However, the real leader may be EV maker Tesla, which just needs a few more weeks to find out.

The reason the final results aren’t known is Tesla, which is counted as a luxury vehicle, doesn’t break out its sales or delivery numbers by country. So all that’s known is Tesla delivered around 936,000 vehicles, up roughly 87% compared with the nearly 500,000 units delivered in 2020.  

Tesla’s production in the fourth quarter included 296,850 Model 3 and Y vehicles and 11,750 Model S and X electric vehicles. However, vehicle registration data from Experian suggests Tesla may become the top dog for 2021 after BMW’s believed to have beaten out its longtime rivals by a comfortable margin.

2021 Tesla Model Y blue
Despite increased competition in 2021, the Tesla Model Y remained the top selling EV in the U.S.

Doing the math

Through 11 months, according to Experian, 303,246 Tesla models have been registered in the U.S. BMW registrations for the same timeframe were 318,182, reported Automotive News. BMW reports full-year U.S. sales of 336,644 units while Mercedes-Benz totaled 329,574 and Lexus sold 304,476 vehicles. 

Sales and registrations don’t necessarily track at the same pace because a vehicle sale can be completed days or even weeks before its registered. While Tesla was behind after 11 months, it was gaining ground on the Bavarian brand, reports Automotive News.

Owners registered 42,314 Teslas in November while BMW registrations came in at 29,481 vehicles more than October, according to Experian. If Tesla and BMW kept up the same pace in December, the EV maker could certainly push past BMW and claim the title.

2022 Mercedes C-Class driving
Mercedes sold more than 329,000 vehicles in the U.S. last year.

“The numbers are too close to call at this moment as December will bring more volume, but it looks like there could be an upset,” Jessica Caldwell, executive director of insights at Edmunds, told Automotive News. “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.”

Already the big dog

Tesla’s already the best-selling EV brand in the U.S. by a wide margin so adding the best-selling luxury brand would be an additional feather in the company’s cap.

During what was a record year, all four of Tesla’s four models now on the market, the Model Y, Model 3, Model S and Model X, held four of the spots on the list of the 10 best-selling EV models compiled by TheDetroitBureau.com. 

Of course, it’s also world leader in EV sales, approaching the million-vehicle mark last year. That’s expected to jump to at least 1.5 million vehicles as the company’s plants near Berlin, Germany and Austin, Texas begin Model Y production this year.

Late Thursday, Tesla announced sizable price increases for the base-model Model 3 and Model Y in China. The base Model Y no longer qualifies for China subsidies, which are 30% lower in 2022. However, that’s unlikely to have a sizeable impact on sales there.