Tesla’s Dodgy Claim

Tesla is now claiming that its Model 3 preorder process is breaking records — here’s the text from the claim Tesla is making:

“In the first 24 hours Model 3 received over 180,000 reservations, setting the record for the highest single-day sales of any product of any kind ever in world history.”

That is, of course, pure hyperbole, and there are two specific reasons why. The first is that the preorder process doesn’t represent sales at all. On Tesla’s own site, the process is referred to as reservations and not sales, and that’s all the $1,000 deposit represents — a place in a long line to have the right to buy a car 18 months or longer from now. Those who made a reservation in this way have no specific timeframe for delivery of their purchase, haven’t committed to any specific purchase, and have the right to a refund of their money at any time between now and whenever their car might finally be available. There is no sense in which this is a sale in any sort of traditional sense.

But even if you concede that the $1,000 represents a sale of some kind, the total revenue implied by that still falls far short of single-day sales for the most recent iPhone, for example, which likely does hold the record for largest single-day sales of any product. At just $180 million, Tesla’s Model 3 revenue is around 6% of single-day iPhone 6s sales. The only way the claim makes any sense at all is if you do what Elon Musk did in a tweet at the end of the first day of preorders, and apply some sort of anticipated average selling price to the 180,000 preorders. That’s even more disingenuous than the claim that these are sales at all, but it does lead to a far higher number. The comparison between these two different Tesla Model 3 numbers and assumed single-day sales for iPhone 6s is shown in the chart below:


Again,though, no-one has committed to actually buy a car from Tesla at this point, the process is entirely refundable, and Tesla won’t see even the majority of that revenue for a couple of years at least. This isn’t, in reality, any kind of sales record at all.

The stupid thing here is that the Model 3 preorder process is still a phenomenally impressive achievement. That so many of those placing reservations had never even seen the car is a testament to the power of Tesla’s brand and what it has achieved, and this likely is a record in the auto industry. But the hyperbole attached to the claim on Tesla’s site just detracts from all of that without having any real basis in fact. Tesla already has the world’s admiration and respect — engaging in this kind of behavior detracts from rather than adds to that mystique.