Tesla's Model 3 was the top-selling vehicle in Europe last month, the first time an electric car has outsold rival models with petrol engines.
The US carmaker's most affordable vehicle beat out cars including Renault's Clio and Volkswagen's Golf, according to Jato Dynamics. The Model 3's performance partly reflects "Tesla's intensive end-of-quarter sales push," the research firm said in a report released Monday.
Taking the monthly sales crown is a major milestone for EVs and another sign that the automotive industry is accelerating its pivot away from the combustion engine. It's also the first time a car made outside of Europe has claimed the region's top spot.
Governments are offering generous incentives to entice buyers to trade in combustion-engine cars, with fully electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles accounting for 23% of the market in September, a near doubling from 2020.
Still, the development comes against a grim backdrop for European vehicle sales because the global semiconductor shortage is crimping production and delaying shipments to customers. New-car registrations dropped by a quarter last month and dealers are struggling to fill lots.
"The growing popularity of EVs is encouraging, but sales are not yet strong enough to offset the big declines seen across other segments," Jato said.
Tesla shipped 24 591 Model 3s to customers in September, a 58% increase from last year.
Meanwhile, Tesla surpassed $1 trillion (R14.7tr) in market value on Monday after landing its biggest-ever order from rental car company Hertz, a deal that reinforced the electric car leader's ambitions to top the entire motor industry in sales over the next decade.
Tesla shares surged as much as 14.9% to $1045.02 (R15 361), making it the world's most valuable automaker according to Reuters calculations based on its latest filing.
Even Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk expressed surprise at the velocity of the surge. "Strange that moved valuation, as Tesla is very much a production ramp problem, not a demand problem," Musk tweeted in reply to a comment by Ross Gerber, co-founder of the investment fund Gerber Kawasaki and a Tesla shareholder.
Tesla is the first carmaker to join the elite club of trillion-dollar companies that includes Apple, Amazon.com, Microsoft and Alphabet Inc.
Most carmakers do not boast about sales to rental car companies, often made at discounts to unload slow-selling models. But for Tesla and its investors, Hertz's decision to order 100 000 Tesla vehicles by the end of 2022 showed electric vehicles are no longer a niche product, but will dominate the mass car market in the near future.
"Electric vehicles are now mainstream, and we've only just begun to see rising global demand and interest," Hertz interim Chief Executive Officer Mark Fields told Reuters.
Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk has set an annual sales growth target of 50%, on average, eventually reaching 20 million vehicles a year. That would be more than twice the volume of current sales leaders Volkswagen and Toyota.
Bloomberg & Reuters