Tesla Motors is set to release by early next week the number of Model S’s delivered during the third quarter 2015. Tesla’s sales are an important metric for the short and mid-term future of electric vehicles. Like any other industry, the automotive industry is driven by profit-making.  If an automaker solely manufacturing electric vehicles, like Tesla, can show growing sales while maintaining favorable profit margins, there is no better motivator for the incumbents to accelerate their electric vehicle programs.

Lets take a quick look at Tesla’s sales so far this year:

Tesla notoriously, and to the dismay of Wall Street analysts, doesn’t release monthly sale numbers. Instead the company publishes the total number of cars delivered during a quarter a few business days after the quarter is over. The reason for this approach is simply that Tesla has, or at least had, a cyclical production and delivery schedule which gives a bad impression of its sales on a monthly basis.

An effective way to get around the lack of information shared by Tesla is to look at car registration statistics. These statistics are not easily available everywhere, but there are a few important markets in which Tesla operates that can act as a decent indicator of Tesla’s sales.

First of, lets look at Tesla’s total global deliveries of the Model S on a quarterly basis since its launch in 2012:Tesla sales per quarterThe company experienced steady growth as it worked through its backlog of Model S reservations, which was estimated at 12,000 before the launch. It seems to have taken 4 quarters for Tesla to work through its pre-launch backlog and apparently the company expects a similar situation with the Model X since it recently changed the expected delivery time of new reservations to the latter half of 2016. Though the Model X is estimated to have a pre-launch backlog of 25,000 to 30,000 reservations with deposits.

Back to the Model S since it will be the bulk of deliveries this quarter (all but 6 Model X’s), Tesla expects to deliver in the third quarter “approximately the same number of vehicles” as in Q2 (~11,500).

If we take a look at registrations in Tesla’s major European markets, we see overall sales are increasing in Europe this year and we can observe early signs of Tesla stabilizing its monthly deliveries:Tesla registration EUro 2015These statistics only represent Tesla’s left-hand drive markets in Europe. The company registered 349 right-hand drive Model S’s in the UK during the first half of the year.

Another very important market for Tesla is Norway, which offers some of the best incentives for electric vehicles around the world. Unfortunately, Tesla sales are slightly down year over year in Norway:Tesla model s registration norway3,431 Model S’s were registered in Norway from January to the end of August 2014 while 3,116 during the same period this year, which represents a 9% decrease. Although the last 3 months saw an increase over last year and if the trend continues, Tesla could potentially erase the 9% yoy decrease in September alone.

Other markets where registration data is not available, like the US, are also very important markets for Tesla, but I would take any estimate with a grain of salt since they mainly are reconciliations based on the market’s percentage of revenue on a quarterly basis, which isn’t ideal considering Tesla’s production and delivery schedule.

In conclusion, overall growth seems in line with Tesla’s own prediction of ~11,500 deliveries in Q3. What will be interesting to follow is how the Model S’ growth compares to the Model X’s as the company ramps up production of the SUV.

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Other posts based on registration data:

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