Brian Cooley is CNET's Editor at large and has been with the brand since 1995. He currently focuses on electrification of vehicles but also follows the big trends in smart home, digital healthcare, 5G, the future of food, and augmented & virtual realities. Cooley is a sought after presenter by brands and their agencies when they want to understand how consumers react to new technologies. He has been a regular featured speaker at CES, Cannes Lions, Advertising Week and the Publicis HealthFront. He was born and raised in Silicon Valley when Apple's campus was mostly apricots.
ExpertiseAutomotive technology, smart home, digital health.Credentials
The Model S used to top lists like these, but that was when EVs were rare. Today this expensive sedan -- two attributes that most US car buyers have no interest in -- slots lower but is still an important part of Tesla's domination of the luxury and electric car segments. The Model S is on a trajectory to being bumped out of lists like this as other EVs pass it in the foreseeable future.
Now we enter the big leagues, a number that is double what the Model 3 sold in the same period in 2021, yet still not enough to make it no. 1. While the Model 3 is synonymous with the success of EVs overall, our number 1 car coming up does something it can't.
Before we get to that, a couple of important side stories:
The Hyundai Ioniq 5 (US sales of 18,492) and the Kia EV6 (US sales of 17,564) cousins each miss the cut for this list, but if they were combined they would bump the Mach E out of third place. The Ioniq 5 and EV6 aren't similar enough to warrant such a grouping, but they share enough technology and parentage to argue that parent Hyundai Motor Company has the pulse of US EV buyers more so than any company except Tesla.
The Volvo sub-brand Polestar 2 deserves mention for showing the highest sales growth rate in the US so far this year, up 500% over its 2021 volume, though on a tiny base of 1,091 cars in 2021. Contrast that to its cousin, the Volvo XC40 Recharge, which is experiencing one of the biggest sales drops of any EV that wasn't canceled this year. That's not so much a comment on the car as on its production pipeline, but an EV needs to sell if it's going to change the world.
I think hybrids and plug-in hybrids are overlooked, and if the RAV4 Hybrid and RAV4 Prime PHEV were on this list, their 138,275 US sales so far would be a strong no. 3, closing in on the Model 3. The RAV4 long ago replaced the Prius as America's favorite hybrid, but have you seen the new Prius?
While the Model 3 is iconic, the Tesla Model Y checks more boxes and sells a lot more cars. It's an EV and a compact utility, a magic combination in a market that's focused on crossovers, SUVs and trucks. If the sibling Model Y and Model 3 were combined as in my Hyundai/Kia musing above, they would have a 60% share of the US EV market. If you get tired of every pundit citing Tesla when they talk about EVs, there's a reason they do.
I'll refresh this list at the close of the year to see how the first three cars fared in this close race. What EV sales winners are coming next? Check out my video on the top EVs to watch for in 2023. Hint: Electric pickup trucks may soon haul this list to the dump.