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Tesla claims Model 3 'best-selling premium vehicle' including SUVs last year

by Justin King

The company says it is the first time in decades an American carmaker has secured the top spot.

Tesla has boldly claimed the Model 3 was the most popular premium vehicle among American buyers last year, outselling all other models including popular SUVs.

"With nearly 140,000 units sold, Model 3 was also the best-selling premium vehicle (including SUVs) in the US for 2018 - the first time in decades an American carmaker has been able to secure the top spot," the company wrote in its Q4 financial disclosures.

To highlight the achievement, the Q4 report shows a chart with the Model 3's sales towering above the Lexus RX, Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLC, Acura RDX, Lexus NX, BMW X3, Cadillac XT5, Mercedes C-Class and Acura MDX.

Tesla chief Elon Musk argues that demand is strong and sales are being limited only by production volume and the entry-level price tag. The cheapest Model 3 currently available is the midrange edition that starts at $44,000, still $9,000 above the target floor of $35,000.

"The demand for Model 3 is insanely high. The inhibitor is affordability," Musk said to analysts following the Q4 release. "It's just people literally don't have the money to buy the car. It's got nothing to do with desire. They just don't have enough money in their bank account. If the car can be made more affordable, the demand is extraordinary."

Tesla expects to sell up to 500,000 Model 3s this year, though hitting the half-million milestone will require the Shanghai factory to begin production on time.

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