Tesla Came Out on Top for the Luxury Sales Crown

A review of new vehicle deliveries for all of 2021 by Cox Automotive has given the luxury sales crown in the U.S. to Tesla, beating out BMW. 

2021 Tesla Model Y blue
After a detailed count, Tesla’s been determined to be the top selling luxury brand in the U.S. in 2021, supplanting BMW.

The award is significant because Cox noted it underscores the growing acceptance of electric vehicles. However, it also marks another significant change: nationality. It’s been more than two decades since GM’s Cadillac Division slipped from contention for the title while German automakers and Lexus, Toyota’s luxury brand, have dominated the luxury market in the U.S. 

Earlier this month when sales numbers were released, it looked as if BMW had prevailed for the second year in a row

Not exactly a recount

However, the review by Cox, which focused on the growing sales of EVs, indicated Tesla prevailed by selling 352,471 units in the U.S. to BMW’s 336,644. Tesla delivered more than 900,000 vehicles worldwide last year, but it doesn’t report sales figures for the U.S.  

Cox, however, compiled its figures from varied sources, i.e. vehicle registrations, and from what in politics would be described as late returns, as a result, its economic analysis unit concluded Tesla came out ahead in 2021.  

Tesla Model 3 - RHD
Cox Automotive reviewed luxury sales in the U.S., finding Tesla sold more vehicles than BMW.

BMW was the top selling luxury brand in the United States in 2020, and last year appeared to hold off a determined charge by Mercedes Benz and beat out Lexus, a former leader, which finished in the third spot despite an 11.8% increase thanks to strong sales of utility vehicles. 

Mercedes-Benz total of 329,574 and Lexus sales of 304,476. Cadillac, once the long-time leader in luxury cars, finished the year selling 118,310 units. 

Top brands face new challenges

But the top brands are facing new competition from Audi, Volvo and Genesis, which are promising to add new battery-electric models to challenge the influence of Tesla, which has had a major impact in key markets, such as California.  

2022 BMW M440i xDrive Gran Coupe
BMW had been proclaimed the luxury sales leader for two consecutive years.

However, Elon Musk, Tesla CEO, says he expects the EV builder to increase its production by 50% this year. BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus also expect to increase sales, but they are facing supply chain challenges. Toyota had to shutter 11 assembly plants In Japan for a time earlier this month, including a number exporting Lexus vehicles to the U.S. 

Musk said this week Tesla also facing supply-chain issues, which continue to hobble the entire industry and will limit the ability of dealers to build inventories for several more months.  

Waiting in the wings are new builders of electric vehicles eager to reach affluent customers such as Rivian and Lucid, which are eager to mount a new challenge to challenge Tesla.  

While Tesla build nearly 1 million vehicles in 2021, production of the top-of-the-line Tesla Model S and Model X slipped last year to 24,390 from 54,805 units in 2020 as the company emphasized production of less expensive Model 3 and Model Y battery-electric vehicles. It is also delaying the introduction of Cybertruck until 2023.

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