Investor's Corner

Tesla Model S, X softer sales in Europe are NOT due to the Audi e-tron and Jaguar I-PACE

The Tesla Model X and the Audi e-tron. (Photo: Achim Hartmann/

In a note to clients on Wednesday, Bernstein senior technology analyst Toni Sacconaghi concluded that increased competition from vehicles such as the Audi e-tron and the Jaguar I-PACE is responsible for the recent weakness in Tesla’s sales volume in Europe. The analyst further warned that the arrival of other premium electric vehicles like the Mercedes-Benz EQC and the Porsche Taycan could worsen Tesla’s problem.

Explaining further, the Bernstein analyst added that the total market for Europe’s premium electric cars has only grown modestly in 2018 and 2019, and over this time, Tesla’s sales volume has decreased. “Our analysis suggests that the deteriorating sales trajectory of the Model S and X may be primarily due to competition, particularly in Europe, from Jaguar and Audi. In other words, the market isn’t growing much, and Tesla is losing share,” Sacconaghi wrote.

According to TSLA investor @Incentives101, an economist with a background in macro research, Bernstein’s conclusions are inaccurate. In a message to Teslarati, the economist provided a deep dive into the likely causes of the Model S and X’s sales decline in Europe, as well as the reasons why vehicles such as the Jaguar I-PACE and the Audi e-tron are in no way responsible for the reduced market share of Tesla’s flagship sedan and SUV.

A Tesla Model X. (Photo: Andres GE)

Model S and X sales decline

It should be noted that Europe is a region, which means that it is comprised of multiple countries, each with a population of consumers that usually have different preferences in vehicle purchases. Looking at past vehicle sales data, the economist noted that from January-June 2018, Tesla sold 13,426 Model S and X in Europe, while in the first six months of 2019, the figure was 8,037.

“In those months of 2018, Norway and the Netherlands accounted for 52% of sales, while in 2019 it was just 28%. This means that 87% of the drop in sales of Model S and X in Europe is explained by the Norwegian and Dutch market. Furthermore, the Netherlands had Model S and X sales for the first six months of 2018 of 2,833 units and 167 for 2019. This means that the Netherlands by itself explains 50% of the drop in sales for Tesla’s flagship vehicles,” the investor wrote.

Model S in Norway
A Tesla Model S in Norway.

The Netherlands and Norway

If one were to look at the sales of the Audi e-tron and the Jaguar I-PACE in the Netherlands for the first half of 2019, one would find that the two vehicles only sold 362 and 111 units, respectively. This means that in the Netherlands, which was behind 50% of the drop in Tesla’s European sales, the e-tron and I-PACE couldn’t have been responsible since their combined sales are only 16% of the Model S and X’s 2018 sales for the same period. With this in mind, some headwinds were met by the Model S and X in the Netherlands, particularly in the form of a change in BIK incentives at the end of 2018, as well as the arrival of the more affordable Model 3, which has reached sales of over 6,000 units in the country.

As explained by the economist, Norway is a key market for Tesla in the European region, and it is responsible for 37% of the drop in Model S and X sales. For the first six months of 2019, Model S and X sales were 2,079 units, while the Audi e-tron sold 2,273 units and the Jaguar I-PACE sold 2,101. Bernstein’s note claimed that the market for premium electric vehicles didn’t increase, and thus, Tesla’s share of the European market just fell. This, according to the investor, is not correct. “If you take the previous Netherlands sales out of the equation — because it becomes incomparable — you’ll see that the market actually increased in Europe,” he wrote.

(Credit: Elon Musk/Twitter)

The actual reasons

The economist noted that there are a couple of factors that likely played a notable part in the decline of the Model S and X’s sales in Norway. First off, Tesla discontinued the 75 kWh (Standard Range) Model S and X, a variant that accounted for more than 80% of the sales in the country. More importantly, Tesla has entered the Norwegian market with the Model 3, a smaller, more affordable vehicle that boasts the best technologies that the electric car maker has to offer.  “Norwegians have proven preferences for smaller and cheaper vehicles. Historically, the share of luxury vehicles in Norway is relatively low. It is then by no surprise that the Model 3 is currently selling at levels not seen in any other market, holding 14% of market share for total vehicles,” the economist explained.

In Norway’s case, at least, Tesla appears to have made a notable trade-off. It entered the market with the Model 3, which allowed the company to command 14% of the country’s total vehicle market. This came at a price in the form of a 50% decline in Model S and X sales. Of course, the removal of the Model S and X’s 75 kWh variant, as well as buyer expectations of an impending refresh of the two flagship vehicles, likely played a notable part in Norway’s sales decline as well.

Debunking Bernstein’s thesis

With these factors in mind, it appears that Bernstein’s findings are, for lack of a better term, inaccurate. The economist summed up his thesis as follows. “Two countries explain the drop in sales for the Model S and X almost entirely, and it’s absolutely clear that competition wasn’t the factor. Regulation and consumer preferences are. It is also important to mention that 28% of sales of the Audi e-tron were in Germany as well, a country where the Model S and X have never been strong, even at their peak.

“Consumers in the aggregate always behave rationally. There hasn’t been one example in history where a product(s) that is inferior in every way dominates the market or segment in which they compete. The Audi e-tron, the Jaguar I-PACE, and the Mercedes-Benz EQC are not even in the Model S and X segment specs-wise. Rather, they are closer in specs to the Model 3 and Model Y, both of which undercut them in price. The only reason people mistakenly put them against the Model S and X is their cost,” the investor explained.

Tesla Model S, X softer sales in Europe are NOT due to the Audi e-tron and Jaguar I-PACE
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