Ecocentricity Blog: A Shattered Record

By: John A. Lanier
Jan 22, 2019 10:00 AM ET

Tesla’s Model 3 is the new king, with a whopping 139,782 vehicles sold in 2018! December alone saw more than 25,000 Model 3s purchased.


There must be something in the human psyche that gets us excited about records being broken. We see it in sports all the time. I remember following the Major League Baseball home run record chase in 1998 between Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa, and sports fans couldn’t look away. Both players ended up breaking Roger Maris’s old record of 61 home runs in a season, with McGuire knocking 70 dingers to Sosa’s 66. Sure, they were likely both Cheater Mc’Cheatfaces given the steroid culture of baseball, but it was still entertaining.

A few records are truly untouchable, proverbially etched in the books in stone. A classic example is Cy Young’s 511 wins as a baseball pitcher. In the modern game, pitchers don’t take the mound enough to rack up wins like that. The current leaders among active players are Bartolo Colon (247 wins) and CC Sabathia (246). They are 45 and 38 years old, respectively.

Another famous untouchable record that I know from being a childhood fan of Georgia Tech is the win differential record for a college football game. Back in 1916, Tech beat Cumberland College by a score of 222-0. If you are wondering how that could possibly happen, worry not! There’s a whole Wikipedia page on it.

Conversely, some records are waiting to be broken. Like my personal record for consecutive days getting my daily recommended dose of exercise – that one is embarrassingly small and just begging to be broken!

One of these latter types of records fell in 2018 in very predictable fashion: the record for electric vehicles sold in the United States in one year. Previously, the Nissan LEAF held the record with 30,200 vehicles sold in 2014. I remember that strong year for Nissan, since many of those LEAFs (leaves?) were sold in Georgia as a result of a tax credit in our state at the time. It was a good year, but it is a record no more.

Tesla’s Model 3 is the new king, with a whopping 139,782 vehicles sold in 2018! Take a look at this coverage by InsideEVs. December alone saw more than 25,000 Model 3s purchased.

It will be interesting to follow along in 2019. There have been longstanding concerns about Tesla’s ability to turn a profit, though it was in the black in the third quarter last year. They still aren’t delivering on orders of the $35,000 baseline Model 3s (upgraded Model 3s with a higher price tag are being delivered first), so profitability when those orders are being fulfilled will be something to watch. Further, the $7500 federal tax credit for purchased Teslas is being phased out, as will happen to all manufacturers when they pass 200,000 sold electric vehicles. Tesla’s future is bright, but not yet blinding in its brilliance.

If I had to bet though, I would bet on Tesla continuing to transform the auto industry. Electrified transport might still be in its early days, but I don’t see the trend toward it decelerating any time soon. Let’s check in a year from now and see if I’m right.

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Valerie Bennett
Ray C. Anderson Foundation
+1 (770) 317-5858