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Tesla Motors Beats Mercedes-Benz on Its Home Turf

By Evan Niu, CFA - Apr 6, 2016 at 6:53PM

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The Model S outsold the S-Class in Europe in 2015.

Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Image source: Mercedes-Benz.

Home-field advantages aren't always what they seem.

Investors already know that the Tesla (TSLA 7.33%) Model S beat out the venerable Daimler Mercedes-Benz S-Class last year in the U.S. market for large luxury vehicles. As part of fourth-quarter earnings, Tesla gave a rare glimpse of its U.S. sales figures in order to tout the fact that the Model S took the crown from the S-Class last year.


2014 Unit Sales

2015 Unit Sales

Tesla Model S



Mercedes-Benz S-Class



Data source: SEC filings.

The S-Class, which starts at $95,000, has long dominated this market segment, so Tesla's victory was no small accomplishment. The electric-auto maker may have just repeated that in the European market.

A close race
According to the U.K.'s EAGLE AID, the Model S narrowly squeezed ahead of the S-Class in 2015. Tesla sold an estimated 15,787 sedans, while Mercedes-Benz moved 14,990 units of its top-of-the-line car. Just in case there was any lingering doubt that Tesla has attracted the attention of its competitors by stealing their most profitable customers, it's safe to say that the Germans are coming after Tesla with blood in their eyes (just like the rest of the auto industry).

Tesla Model S. Image source: Tesla.

It's probably not a coincidence that Daimler recently announced that it was severing all development ties with Tesla, preferring to in-source EV drive unit development going forward while also building up battery production capacity. The German automaker intends on tripling capacity and is investing 500 million euros in a new lithium-ion battery production plant.

The rest of the world
If EAGLE AID's estimates are accurate, that would account for nearly 41,000 of Tesla's total Model S deliveries in 2015. Tesla delivered 50,452 sedans last year. That would mean that Tesla sold just under 9,500 into Asia-Pacific, which primarily consists of China, Japan, and Australia.

Model S in Australia. Image source: Tesla.

Tesla has high hopes to grow in China, but continues to face some headwinds. The supercharger network still needs a lot of work in the Middle Kingdom in order to combat range anxiety, and import tariffs are still extremely high. Tesla's revenue in China fell 33% last year to $318.5 million, according to its 10-K annual report.

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