Tesla Model 3 used car sales also depressing for Audi, BMW, GM and Ford

Ten times more used cars from others available than Teslas

The Tesla Model 3 has many superlatives associated with it. The most pre-orders of any production car ever. The highest volume sales of any small or midsize luxury sedan in the USA. The highest revenue for any car sold in the USA for the last four to six months of 2018. The fewest buttons, switches, and dials of any car.

But there’s another superlative.

The fewest used cars available by an order of magnitude.

Forty times as many new BMW owners are dumping their new 3 Series as Tesla owners are doing with their Model 3s. Thirty times as many new Audi owners are dumping their A4s as Tesla owners.

Autotrader is the largest online used car site in the USA. A search for second-hand Tesla Model 3s on January 1st found 78 Tesla Model 3s for sale on the site. There were roughly 140,000 Tesla Model 3s sold in 2018 per CleanTechnica reporting.

78 used cars represents about 0.06% of the Tesla Model 3s on the road. That number doesn’t seem that high.

Using the November sales chart, I also looked at the cars which ranked just above and below the Model 3 in January–November 2018 sales volume. Checking for used 2018–2019 Chevy Malibus on Autotrader, there are over 1,000 for sale right now, and there were only a few more of them built and sold in 2018 than the Model 3. There are 986 used 2018–2019 Ford Focuses available for sale right now, thirteen times more than Tesla Model 3s, with fewer built and sold. That’s about 0.8% that are up for resale.

There’s an order of magnitude fewer Tesla Model 3s for sale than GM and Ford cars which sold in equal numbers in 2018 in the USA.

But what about its closest competitors, small, luxury, performance sedans such as the BMW 3 Series and the Audi A4? They have similar price points and target demographics, so are arguably better to compare to the Model 3 than either the Malibu or Focus.

New Tesla Model 3s outsold new 3 Series and A4s by a large margin in 2018 in the USA, three to four times the sales volume. But going back to Autotrader and looking solely at used 2018–2019 cars for sale is instructive. There are over 1,000 BMW 3 Series available right now for those model years. There are 502 Audi A4s available. There are seven to thirteen times as many used new-model BMWs and six times as many Audi A4s for sale as Tesla Model 3s.

Let’s run the numbers a slightly different way. If all else were equal, the number of cars available used should be aligned to the number of cars sold. The ratios should be relatively close. There were more BMW 3 Series sold than Audi A4s and there are more available used. The ratio isn’t perfect, as new is roughly 4:3 and used is in the range of 2:1, but the principle applies.

When we look at Tesla vs BMW, we see a ratio of 3:1 new and 1:13 used. Really, the way to look at this is that potentially 40 times as many BMW owners are dumping their new 3 Series as Tesla owners are doing with their Model 3s. Audi is 4:1 and 1:7. There are about 30 times as many Audi owners dumping their A4s as Tesla owners.

There were certainly anecdotal stories of people who bought the two-wheel drive as soon as they could but then put down the more serious money for the AWD or Performance version when it was made available. And there are certainly people who were speculating on the Model 3, intending to make a fast buck by flipping it to people who wanted one.

But what about mileage? Well, a scan of the mileage on Autotrader found a range from 11 miles to 14,000 miles on the used Teslas. There were some that were obviously bought to flip second hand with 11 to 45 miles on them. There were some in the 1,000–2,000 range. The majority were in the mid-1,000s. There were a handful over 10,000, which is reasonable given annual mileage averages in the USA are about 13,500.

Did some people buy to flip? Yes, and no surprise. They probably did okay in June, but wouldn’t be doing okay today with Tesla running 6,000–7,000 a week. Speculation on the Model 3 for quick flips is more a thing of the past, although obviously this does suggest that resale value remains high. Some of the variance can be explained by high demand for used Model 3s, meaning that used inventories remain low.

Are there are other factors which could explain a subset of the difference? Yes, of course. More BMWs and Audis are leased than Teslas. There are more demo models for the other manufacturers. Some jurisdictions clawed back tax rebates if the cars weren’t kept until 2019. An update to this assessment in a few months will be interesting.

But really, the statistics show that Tesla Model 3 owners are very happy with their cars and keeping them. Demand is very strong for the newest Tesla. For BMW, Audi, GM and Ford? Not so much.

Previously published on CleanTechnica




The Future is Electric is the house journal of TFIE Strategy Inc, a firm which assists global clients to future proof themselves in our rapidly changing world of business and technical innovation, and geopolitical and climate disruption.

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Michael Barnard

Michael Barnard

Advisor Agora & ELECTRON. Founder distnc & TFIE. Publish on low-carbon transformation and related politics.

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