BMW i3 and Tesla Model S compete with ICE cars

BMW i3 in the wild

According to CNCDA (California New Car Dealers Association) there are two electric cars in the top positions for the best selling cars in California YTD 2016 thru September.

The Tesla Model S is number one in the “Luxury and Sports” segment, while the BMW i3 is number four in the “Entry Luxury” category.

This is important because electric cars will only become mainstream when they compete with ICE cars, not each other. When a new electric car model arrives we tend to only compare it to current electric cars, while more importantly we should be comparing it to the polluting machines that it needs to replace.


Below we have the data for the “Top Selling Models in Each Segment – New Car and Light Truck Registrations, YTD 2016 thru September”.


Luxury and Sports




Tesla Model S


13,7 %

Mercedes E-Class


13,5 %

BMW 5-Series


13,4 %

Mercedes S-Class


5,2 %

Lexus GS


4,8 %


Entry Luxury




Audi A3


25,5 %

Mercedes CLA-Class


21,2 %

Lexus Ct200H


16,4 %

BMW i3


15,8 %

Acura ILX


10,1 %


While the Tesla Model X isn’t in “Luxury SUV” segment’s top positions yet, I’m sure it will in 2018.

With the Tesla Model 3, Tesla can easily be the number one in the “Near Luxury” segment that is currently dominated by the Mercedes C-Class and the BMW 3-Series. This segment will be fun to watch, since BMW will release an all electric BMW 3-Series to join the party.


It’s expected that electric cars first dominate the luxury segments than the others. Right now it’s easier for EVs to compete with ICE cars regarding performance. Just think that the LaFerrari costs roughly ten times more than a Tesla Model S P100D and they have similar 0 to 100 km/h acceleration. It’s not easy nor cheap to make fast machines that rely on engines burning and exploding fossil fuels…

BMW will probably launch the all electric BMW i8 before Porsche release its electric sports car based in the Mission E. concept. When this happens electric cars will dominate the luxury segments and ICE luxury cars will be the first to become obsolete.


Another curiosity in CNCDA’s numbers is that the Toyota Prius – that once was the best selling-car in California – is now in third place in the “Sub Compact” segment.

The arrival of the plug-in hybrid Toyota Prius Prime will definitely help Prius sales, but will it be enough to dethrone the current number one, the Honda Civic?


As a final remark, Volkswagen diesel scandal did damaged the brand in eco-conscious California. Volkswagen was the automaker with the worst percent change in light vehicle registrations when compared to the previous year (-10,1 %).

Maybe it’s time for Volkswagen to focus in the present moment and stop talking about how great the year 2020 will be for VW electric cars. The new and improved 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf should be the focus right now (with advertising and discounts) to help people forget and forgive all the diesel mess.


After the BMW i3, which electric car from a traditional automaker will reach the top positions in the Californian car market? The Chevrolet Bolt EV might have a shot in the “Entry” segment if GM makes things right.


What do you think?



More info:

Pedro Lima

My interest in electric transportation is mostly political. I’m tired of coups and wars for oil. My expectation is that the adoption of electric transportation will be a factor for peace and democracy all over the world.

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5 years ago

Totally agree that EVs must compete with ICE as well as with each other. And hopefully it will be fun to watch the market develop. I think 2017 will be a pretty good year where EVs grow considerably in percentage terms, but still capture only a small share overall. Model 3 could rock the boat, but I’m still far from convinced it will arrive on time.

We’ll still have little choice but to be patient for 2020, which should be a tipping point for EV adoption.

5 years ago
Reply to  Terawatt

I tihink the model 3 will arrive next year the question is how many or how few…

We do have little choice but to wait a couple years for big auto to roll out their much improved EVs as no matter how much we want them today they still have to finish engineering them plus they are expecting battery prices to continue falling to support a greater EV rollout…

Im still hoping one or more countries throw out EV only mandates post 2025 or so…

Ralf K.
5 years ago

“Just think that the LaFerrari costs roughly ten times more than a Tesla Model S P100D and they have similar 0 to 100 km/h acceleration. It’s not easy nor cheap to make fast machines that rely on engines burning and exploding fossil fuels…”

Well, Nissan GT-R starts at 99.990 EUR in Germany and offers similar 0 to 100 km/h acceleration, too (2,8 for GT-R vs. 2,7 for S P100D). Thus a potential P100D buyer, not willing to spend 149.600 EUR, can save about 50.000 EUR. So you should drop that claim, which only reiterates Tesla advertisement.