Toyota and Honda owners switching to Tesla

Before the modern electric car era, if you needed a car and wanted something fuel efficient, your best options were generally Toyotas and Hondas, the two companies that led on hybrids and fuel-efficient non-hybrids. There are generations of drivers who still love Toyota and Honda as a result of those cars and these two companies’ reputations for reliability, fuel efficiency, and high quality for the money. But Tesla is now setting a much higher bar, and consumers are responding.

Interestingly, when Tesla announced in the middle of the year which models Tesla Model 3 buyers were most commonly trading in, #1 was the Toyota Prius, #3 was the Honda Accord, and #4 was the Honda Civic. That implied that the Model 3 wasn’t just eating into sales of other midsize luxury cars, but also a much broader pool of cars topped by highly popular affordable cars known for fuel efficiency.

New data CleanTechnica has exclusively collected from Experian Automotive (from the first 5–6 months of 2018) show that across the electric car market, the top models in terms of electric vehicle (EV) conquest sales (the models EV buyers most commonly left to buy their new EVs) were:

  • Toyota Prius — 5.6% (of all electric vehicle conquests)
  • Chevrolet Volt — 3.4%
  • BMW 3 Series — 3%
  • Honda Civic — 2.8%
  • Honda Accord — 2.5%

Something we could never get from Tesla was the percentage of Model 3 buyers who came from the top 5 models. I asked Elon Musk the question on Tesla’s 2nd quarter conference call, but he didn’t have the data on hand. On the next call, Tesla indicated conquest sales were spread broadly across the market, and again didn’t provide percentages for any models.

As you can see above, the data provided by Experian put that figure at 17.3% for all fully electric car sales, approximately 67% of which were Teslas. To reiterate, in case you got lost in my rambling, 17.3% of new electric car buyers left one of those 5 models for their new EV — the Prius, Volt, 3 Series, Accord, or Civic. (Again, this is for all fully electric cars bought January through May 2018.)

The other thing you’ve probably noticed by now is that, even though the list is extremely similar to the list Tesla shared, there is one interesting difference. Once more, here’s the list Tesla announced on its 2nd quarter conference call:

  • Toyota Prius
  • BMW 3 Series
  • Honda Accord
  • Honda Civic
  • Nissan LEAF

I have to say I was a bit surprised to see the Chevy Volt so high on the first list. In any case, though, the gasmobiles that people are most commonly giving up to go electric seem clear. The transition is putting a sting on Honda, Toyota, and BMW. 

It’s also somewhat interesting that the Accord and Civic changed places on the Experian list compared to the Tesla list, but the percentages are so similar that it may not really mean much. Of course, one could expect that Model 3 buyers are now pulling more people away from the higher priced Accord, whereas consumers buying cheaper Nissan LEAFs, Fiat 500es, etc. are more logically going to come from cheaper and smaller gas cars like the Honda Civic.

Some other fun stats about EV conquest sales that we collected from Experian concerned the types of powertrains the EV buyers left. EV conquests came from the following sources:

  • Gasoline — 78.7%
  • Hybrid — 18% (note that hybrids account for less than 3% of the market)
  • Diesel — 2.7% 

Among return electric vehicle owners, 62% were “loyal back to their brands.” That is, if they bought a Nissan LEAF, they came back for another Nissan EV … which means another LEAF in that example since Nissan doesn’t sell any other EVs. Here are some other stats on that topic straight from Experian:

  • 80.5% of returning Tesla owners bought another Tesla
    • Note: Tesla had the highest level of make loyalty in the industry through May 2018. Subaru was second at 72.1% and Ford was third at 72%
  • 67.4% of returning electric BMW owners bought another BMW
  • 57.3% of returning smart owners bought another smart car

And how about those EV drivers who stopped driving electric? The top electric vehicle defections by model were:

  • 6.8% to Chevy Volt (which means that 6.8% of all electric vehicle defectors defected to the Chevy Volt)
  • 2.3% to Nissan Rogue
  • 2.2% to BMW 3 Series
  • 2% to BMW 5 Series
  • 1.9% to Volkswagen Tiguan

Also, while this information is well out of date now, it’s perhaps worth sharing nonetheless:

Tesla models led the electric vehicle market in the first half of 2018:

  • Tesla Model 3 was 1st with 37.5% of the electric vehicle market in the first half of 2018 on 22,265 registrations
  • Tesla Model S was 2nd with 16.1% electric share on 9,539 registrations
  • Tesla Model X was 3rd with 12.7% of the electric market on 7,517 registrations
  • Chevrolet Bolt was 4th with 12.1% of the electric market on 7,214 registrations
  • Nissan Leaf was 5th with 9.6% of the electric market on 5,726 registrations

Registrations of gasoline vehicles were down from 95.4% in 2008 to 93.74% in 2018. The relevant data for other powertrains:

  • Diesel share 2.5% in 2018, up from 1.9% in 2008. High point in 2014 at 2.9%.
  • Hybrid share 2.7% in 2018, unchanged from 2008, down from a high of 3.7% in 2013.
  • Electric share .9% in 2018, up from 0% in 2008, electric share hit .5% for the first time in 2016.