LOS ANGELES – Tesla Motors, the luxury battery-car company run by billionaire Elon Musk, is North America’s rechargeable auto sales leader so far this year as its Model S sedan passed General Motors’ Chevrolet Volt.
Tesla expects to report at least 4,750 deliveries of the electric Model S in the United States and Canada when it releases first-quarter results on May 8, said Shanna Hendriks, a company spokeswoman, reiterating a March 31 estimate. That compares with 4,421 Volt sales in North America and 3,695 deliveries of Nissan’s Leaf, based on data provided by the carmakers.
The sales ranking for Model S is a first for the Palo Alto-based company’s flagship model and coincides with Tesla saying it would report a first-quarter profit, the first in its 10-year history. The plug-in hybrid Volt, which uses both batteries and a gasoline engine, led regional sales in 2012.
“Any success for a company in this space is helpful for all other makers of plug-in vehicles,” said Jim Cain, a spokesman for Detroit-based GM. “The single most important thing we can do for plug-ins, to encourage sales, is to have them on the road.”
Tesla began selling the Model S, with a $69,900 base price, in mid-2012 and hasn’t begun shipments beyond North America. It goes as far as 300 miles on a charge, according to Tesla. Musk has set a target of delivering 20,000 of the cars, built in Fremont, Calif., this year.