2023 Luxury Brand Sales Race Is for Second Place

Jackson Wheeler
7 Min Read

  • Tesla sold 485,000 electric vehicles in the US in the first three quarters of this year, outpacing luxury brands Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Lexus, and Audi—even when including their internal-combustion offerings.
  • Lucid Air sales jumped 118% to 4140 units through September, Wards Intelligence reports.
  • If a pricing differential of a mere $1875 separates the Cadillac Lyriq EV from the Chevrolet Blazer EV, where is the line separating mainstream and luxury brands?

Tesla is on its way to a second-straight year as the number-one luxury brand in the United States, with an estimated 485,000 electric vehicles among its four models sold in the first three quarters of the year, up 43.3% over the first nine months of 2022.

This comes after Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Lexus have battled for years to claim the number-one spot in US luxury car sales.

Year-to-date sales for BMW Group, including Mini, were 277,132, up 10.9%. Mercedes, including Metris and Sprinter, was up 0.7% to 260,522 units, while Lexus was up 12.9% to 224,308 vehicle deliveries for the first nine months. Back out the sales of internal-combustion models for these legacy brands, and Tesla’s dominance is even more amplified.

Tesla does not break out US sales from its global total, which it will report late this month. These numbers are estimates from Wards Intelligence’s September/Q3/year-to-date report, which differ from Cox Automotive’s Q3 Industry Insights report released last week, before the final days of September, and illustrates how tricky it is to figure US sales without the manufacturer’s participation.

Lucid Air sales jumped 118% to 4140 units for the first three quarters, Wards reports.

Elon Musk’s confusion over US versus global sales, intentional or not, led the Tesla CEO to falsely claim that the Model 3 outsold the Toyota Corolla globally for the first half of 2023.

Mercedes, BMW, and Audi are in a rampup of EVs that probably looks like Tesla did a decade ago.

Still, Tesla’s sales are not only better than its three top luxury brand rivals, according to Wards it has also outsold Subaru, at 467,223 for the three quarters and trails Kia Motors, at 604,674 on the US top-10 chart.

Tesla sold 288,408 Model Ys year-to-date, up 89.2%, and 162,463 Model 3s, up 14.7%. Model X sales were down 0.6% to 22,586, and Model S was down 15.2% to 12,143, according to Wards Intelligence.

But is Tesla still a luxury brand? Single motor, rear-wheel-drive versions of the Tesla Model 3 have a base price of $29,700 “after federal tax credit (up to $7,500) and estimated gas savings,” while the dual-motor, all-wheel-drive Model Y starts at $32,890 with the same asterisk. Model 3s listed in tesla.com’s inventory Thursday come in as low as $36,620 with many dual-motor AWD models in the $49,000 to $51,000 range.

cadillac lyriq

Cadillac has delivered 5334 Lyriq EVs through September.


Model Ys in Tesla’s inventory are priced from below $48,000 to the low-$50s. All are dual-motor AWD vehicles. On Thursday, Tesla announced it is adding a new, lower-cost single-motor rear-wheel-drive Model Y to the lineup, which should lower its base price close to the base Model 3.

The more relevant question might be where the line separates mainstream from luxury brands, based on price. Consider that the Cadillac Lyriq EV—which is finally reaching customers in significant numbers—starts at $58,590, a mere $1875 more than the just-launched Chevrolet Blazer EV.

The average transaction price for internal-combustion vehicles (including hybrids) was $48,051 for the first half of the year, compared to $53,376 for EVs and $54,943 for Tesla alone, according to the Cox Automotive Q3 report.

One looming question for Tesla is whether it can hold on to the EV primacy that long ago made its market cap by far the highest in the industry, as the world’s “legacy” automakers rush to expand their own EV lineups. The Mercedes, BMWs, and Audis of the world are currently in a rampup of EVs that probably looks like Tesla from a decade ago.

Here’s a snapshot of legacy luxury EV sales so far this year:


  • EQB: 4961
  • EQE: 4515
  • EQE SUV: 4028
  • EQS: 6251
  • EQS SUV: 7999

TTL EVs: 27,754


  • e-tron: 2536 (both models)
  • e-tron GT: 2424
  • Q4 e-tron: 7942 (both models)
  • Q8 e-tron: 4716 (both models)

TTL EVs: 17,628


TTL EVs: 14,522

(NOTE: Orders taken on i5, but no deliveries in the first three quarters.)

Volvo Polestar






If you’ve driven luxury EVs from Tesla and other brands, what are the differences you identify between them? Please comment below.

Headshot of Todd Lassa

Contributing Editor

As a kid growing up in Metro Milwaukee, Todd Lassa impressed childhood friends with his ability to identify cars on the street by year, make, and model. But when American automakers put an end to yearly sheetmetal changes, Lassa turned his attention toward underpowered British sports cars with built-in oil leaks. After a varied early journalism career, he joined Autoweek, then worked in Motor Trend’s and Automobile’s Detroit bureaus, before escaping for Mountain Maryland with his wife, three dogs, three sports cars (only one of them British), and three bicycles. Lassa is founding editor of thehustings.news, which has nothing to do with cars.

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Jackson Wheeler is a skilled editor at Speedofdaily.com, specializing in automotive content. With a background in Journalism and Automotive Engineering, he combines his passion for cars with his writing expertise to deliver captivating articles. Jackson's deep knowledge of automotive technology and his racing experience make him a valuable asset to the team, providing readers with informative and engaging content.
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