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What Tesla has done that Lexus, Volvo, Land Rover and others have all failed to achieve

Tesla's Model Y has been in hot demand since its recent Australian launch. (Image: Tom White)

When it comes to luxury cars in Australia, the market is dominated by the ‘Big Three Germans’ - Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi. Or at least, it was.

Lexus has spent more than 30 years trying to crack this group and get on the podium of premium car sales. While the likes of Volvo, Land Rover, Alfa Romeo, Jaguar and move have also fallen short of splitting the big three.

Tesla is on course to achieve this feat in its first year of recorded sales in Australia. According to the latest new car sales data released by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) that covers up until the end of November, Tesla is sitting third in the luxury-car standings.

The American brand has sold 17,328 cars in the first 11 months of 2022, compared to 25,215 for Mercedes-Benz, 21,725 for BMW and, most importantly, 13,470 for Audi. Other would-be rivals all trail significantly, Volvo has recorded 9735 sales, Lexus has managed just 6543, while Land Rover is next best with 4167 sales.

It’s an impressive achievement for Tesla, underlining the American company’s success at disrupting the luxury market with its all-electric offerings. However, it is important to note, that while 2022 is the first year the brand has recorded its sales data with the FCAI, it’s obviously not the brand’s first year on sale in Australia. It’s actually taken the better part of a decade for Tesla to achieve this milestone, but regardless of timing, to break the German trio’s grip on the top spots on the luxury sales charts is a remarkable and notable achievement.

What makes it more impressive is that Tesla has managed to out-sell Audi with only two models - the Model 3 and Model Y - available in Australia. Officially Tesla Australia’s website is still taking orders for the larger Model S and Model X, but there is no official timing on when those cars will be available in Australia again.

One of the keys to Tesla’s successful year has been a steady demand and enough supply of both the Model 3 and Model Y, with the two vehicles selling well throughout the year. Because of this, the pair are only separated by 814 sales - 9071 for the Model 3 and 8257 for the Model Y.

Tesla has managed to out-sell Audi with only two models - the Model 3 and Model Y - available in Australia. (Image: Tom White)

However, it’s also worth noting that there have been some wild fluctuations in sales from month to month at times. For example, only 33 Model 3 were registered in October compared to more than 1000 Model Ys. And Tesla managed to sell a remarkable 4359 Model Ys in September alone - which is more than Land Rover has managed year-to-date.

Of course, there is no guarantee Tesla will remain a top-three luxury brand, with Audi supply constraints throughout 2022 meaning its sales are down nearly 17 per cent this year. Equally, Swedish stalwart Volvo is on the rise as it reinvents itself as an all-electric car company in the coming years. Volvo sales are up more than 10 per cent with the XC40, which is now available with an all-electric powertrain, a key reason for that growth.

Having said all that, Tesla is showing no signs of slowing down and with the Model S and Model X expected to eventually be available for local customers again (the local website is still taking orders and holding deposits), the American brand may have shaken up the Australian luxury car market for good.

Stephen Ottley
Contributing Journalist
Steve has been obsessed with all things automotive for as long as he can remember. Literally, his earliest memory is of a car. Having amassed an enviable Hot Wheels and Matchbox collection as a kid he moved into the world of real cars with an Alfa Romeo Alfasud. Despite that questionable history he carved a successful career for himself, firstly covering motorsport for Auto Action magazine before eventually moving into the automotive publishing world with CarsGuide in 2008. Since then he's worked for every major outlet, having work published in The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age,, Street Machine, V8X and F1 Racing. These days he still loves cars as much as he did as a kid and has an Alfa Romeo Alfasud in the garage (but not the same one as before... that's a long story).
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