clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Tesla sells the most electric cars in the U.S. Will it stay that way?

If Elon Musk sticks to his plan, Tesla has a shot.

Rani Molla is a senior correspondent at Vox and has been focusing her reporting on the future of work. She has covered business and technology for more than a decade — often in charts — including at Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal.

The long-awaited shift to electric cars has seen some significant developments this week:

Electric cars still account for only a small percentage of the U.S. market. And Tesla is the biggest seller, despite its cars’ high prices. Tesla sold the most electric vehicles in the U.S. of any car company last year — nearly 50,000, or a third of all plug-in electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles in the U.S., according to data from

With the launch of Tesla’s Model 3, starting at a relatively affordable $35,000, these sales will surely grow. Tesla plans to drastically ramp up deliveries to an ambitious 500,000 globally next year, up from 76,000 in 2016.

The big question now is: As electric car sales accelerate, will Tesla maintain its lead? It has brand advantage and also a lot of data on its users, which is crucial for self-driving operations. But the rest of the auto industry is moving quickly to electric cars and it has proven production capacity — unlike Tesla — and wide distribution networks. Is Tesla making the iPhone of electric cars, or the PalmPilot?

New forecasts from Bloomberg New Energy Finance predict that Tesla will maintain its U.S. lead compared to other competitors. While GM currently has the highest number of cumulative electric vehicle sales in the U.S., BNEF expects that Tesla will surpass it next year and will deliver a cumulative 709,000 vehicles in the U.S. by 2021 — far outpacing other car companies.

Of course, for this to happen, Tesla will have to make good on its production promises.

This article originally appeared on

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.