Tesla bucks trend as best-seller in Oc­to­ber

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - MONEY - Nathan Bomey

For most au­tomak­ers, pas­sen­ger-car sales are plung­ing while sales of SUVs, crossovers and pick­ups have been more re­silient.

Amer­i­can pref­er­ences have shifted to­ward larger ve­hi­cles amid fuel econ­omy im­prove­ments and low gaso­line prices.

The shift has had a sig­nif­i­cant ef­fect on the mix of sales at the ma­jor au­tomak­ers. Nearly two-thirds of ve­hi­cles sold in Oc­to­ber by Toy­ota, for ex­am­ple, were pick­ups, SUVs and crossovers. The Ja­panese au­tomaker known for its stal­wart sedans is in­creas­ingly be­com­ing an SUV and truck brand in the U.S.

Other au­tomak­ers have cho­sen to be­come one. Ford, for ex­am­ple, re­cently an­nounced it would dis­con­tinue most of its pas­sen­ger cars. And Fiat Chrysler has al­ready done so. But there’s at least one car that’s buck­ing the trend. And it’s No. 1 on our list of the hottest ve­hi­cles in the U.S. in Oc­to­ber. To be sure, this list is not based purely on vol­ume. If it was, the Ford F-se­ries pickup would be No. 1 since it’s the in­dus­try’s peren­nial best-seller. In­stead, this list is based on a sub­jec­tive but an­a­lyt­i­cal as­sess­ment of sales vol­ume, buzz and mo­men­tum:

❚ 1. Tesla Model 3: It’s get­ting harder to deny that the Tesla Model 3 is be­come a dis­rup­tive force in the auto in­dus­try.

While Tesla does not re­port sales on a monthly ba­sis, the com­pany sold 55,840 Model 3 cars in the third quar­ter, which cov­ered July, Au­gust and Septem­ber.

With only three mod­els for sale, Tesla out­sold lux­ury ri­val Mercedes-Benz in the third quar­ter in the U.S.

Dur­ing that pe­riod, the Model 3 elec­tric sedan was the third-best-sell­ing car in the U.S., Tesla CEO Elon Musk said. With the av­er­age price start­ing at $49,000 in the third quar­ter, that’s stun­ning.

❚ 2. Toy­ota High­lander: Toy­ota’s pivot from pas­sen­ger cars to SUVs and pick­ups has been strik­ing for a brand that cap­i­tal­ized on the Amer­i­can auto in­dus­try’s lack of small cars in the past.

But it’s a sign of Toy­ota’s adapt­abil­ity that nearly two in three of its ve­hi­cles sold to Amer­i­cans in Oc­to­ber were crossovers, SUVs or pick­ups.

The High­lander is a per­fect ex­am­ple. It posted its best-ever Oc­to­ber sales at 20,548, up 17.7 per­cent from a year ear­lier. It was the brand’s fourth-best­seller for the month.

❚ 3. Toy­ota Ta­coma: This mid­size pickup is rack­ing up sales while the in­dus­try awaits the ar­rival of a fierce com­peti­tor: the re­turn of the once-dead Ford Ranger. Sales of the Ta­coma rose 24.9 per­cent in Oc­to­ber to 20,534 units. It was no fluke. The Ta­coma is up 25.3 per­cent for the year.

❚ 4. Subaru Forester: Subaru may be the hottest au­to­mo­tive brand in the U.S., given its 83 con­sec­u­tive months of year-over-year sales growth.

In Oc­to­ber, the brand’s re­cently re­designed Forester SUV de­liv­ered a 19 per­cent in­crease to 15,981. Sales of the new model and the out­go­ing ver­sion com­bined to make it the brand’s best-seller in Oc­to­ber, sur­pass­ing the Out­back.

❚ 5. Volk­swa­gen At­las: This large SUV has come to VW’s res­cue since it hit show­rooms in spring 2017. While VW could still use more SUVs, the At­las has given deal­ers some­thing to sell in an in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar seg­ment.

The At­las passed the Pas­sat as the VW brand’s third-best-sell­ing ve­hi­cle for the month, be­hind only the Jetta and the Tiguan. VW sold 4,725 At­las ve­hi­cles for the month, up 29 per­cent from a year ear­lier.


Tesla sold 55,840 Model 3 cars in Q3.

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