Who Buys the Model S - Prius & Exotic Owners

Who Buys the Model S - Prius & Exotic Owners

Who buys a Tesla? Very wealthy people and Toyota Prius owners.

That’s the conclusion of an analysis of vehicle registrations by IHS Automotive analyst Tom Libby.

About 15.5% of Tesla Model S buyers owned a Toyota-brand vehicle at the time of the purchase, Libby said. The numbers don't make clear whether they were trading in the Toyota or adding the electric sports sedan to a garage that also had a car from the Japanese automaker, he said.

Toss in Toyota’s Lexus luxury division, and the data is even more startling. More than a quarter -- 25.3% -- of Tesla buyers in the United States owned a Toyota-manufactured vehicle at the time of their Model S purchase.

“The Toyota conquests by the Model S are being driven by the Prius, which is the No. 1 model conquested by the Model S,” Libby said.

Toyota’s Highlander and Sienna are fifth and sixth on the list of models. Nissan’s electric Leaf sedan ranks seventh.

“The fact that the Prius and Leaf both rank so high on the Model S conquest list suggests that the S now gives hybrid-/EV-inclined purchasers an opportunity to move up to a vehicle that is clearly a hybrid or electric like their current model but more luxurious and upscale than their current car and more stylish as well,” Libby said.

Not surprisingly, Mercedes-Benz and BMW also were well-represented. Nearly 11% of Tesla buyers owned a Benz, and 10% had a Bimmer.

Considering that the Tesla’s price starts at $71,070 before any federal or state incentives for purchasing an electric car, it’s not surprising that owners of other luxury cars are big buyers.

This trend becomes even more pronounced when the registration data is adjusted by number of vehicles a company sells, Libby said. Besides the green ethos of a Prius, Toyota is at the top of the list because it has so many cars on the road that buyers own or are trading in, he said.

Libby also spun the registration numbers to adjust for how many cars a manufacturer has sold.

He discovered that McLaren supercar owners are the most likely to buy a Tesla when they go car shopping. They don’t account for many Tesla sales because McLaren owners number just in the hundreds to low thousands in the U.S., compared with the millions of Toyota owners.

Lotus, Ferrari, Aston Martin and Maserati owners also were more likely than the owners of other brands to buy a Tesla, Libby said.

Why are exotic car owners big into Teslas?

“It is either because they are so wealthy that they can add another toy to the collection,” Libby said, “or they could be looking for a more practical vehicle. They have a family of five and it’s hard to take them anywhere in a Lamborghini.”

Sharkdiver76 | 11 febbraio 2014

My previous car was a lease on a nissan Altima, I had owned a used corvette c5 and was saving to buy a new stingray corvette until I drove a tesla, I should have my p85+ delivered by end of month.

andrigtmiller | 11 febbraio 2014

Interesting data. For me, I had a 2001 Volkswagen Beetle, and a 2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited. I gave the Beetle to my sister after getting the Model S.

I was looking for the best possible car, that was truly a breakthrough in technology and efficiency. Nothing compares to the Model S when looked at through that lens. I watched and researched for four years, and saved for three, using stock awards from the company I work for as my main means of saving for the car.

I suspect that as sales continue to grow around the world, the variety of reasons for people purchasing a Model S, and the types of cars it replaces will grow in variety as well.

RedShift | 11 febbraio 2014

My next car would have been an M5, but I was already researching the Model S for a long time. It helped that BMW became complacent with their F platform for the 5 series. Thanks BMW! :-)

jordanrichard | 11 febbraio 2014

Without surveying Tesla owners, there really isn't anything concrete that can be made from registration data. | 11 febbraio 2014

Toyota and Lexus are huge in California, so it makes some sense that with about 1/2 of Model S sales in California, that many have one of these makes.

tes-s | 11 febbraio 2014

Sounds about right, though anecdotal.

AmpedRealtor | 11 febbraio 2014

I sold my Prius to buy a Model S, currently still own a 2010 Highlander Hybrid.

eddiemoy | 11 febbraio 2014

i'm not a prius or exotic car driver. had odyssey and gti, only drove the odyssey once since i got the p85+ over 6 months ago. was looking to get the r8, but reconsidered the cost was too high. mid life crisis.

gti lease up, wife doesn't want tesla model s, too big for her. maybe when model e comes out she will like it more. going to get the s5 in the mean time.

church70 | 11 febbraio 2014


Rocky_H | 13 febbraio 2014

Yep, we fall into that. We had a 2002 Prius for a couple of years (which kinda sucked). I loved Toyota's hybrid system, but the models before the 2004 redesign were all around not very good with everything except the drivetrain. Then we sold that and got a 2005 Civic Hybrid, which we still have. That Civic was the most expensive car we had ever bought (about $24K) until we ordered the Model S.

Ohmman | 13 febbraio 2014

I had a 1999 Acura TL. I planned to keep it indefinitely, as I didn't want to create a market for yet another new car when mine was perfectly fine. Then something completely different came along.

NomoDinos | 13 febbraio 2014

Hmmm... conquested? I'm calling Broogle on the one.

@Brian H - is this even a real word??

Anyhow, interesting article. If they added BMW and Porsche to the list, I bet the number would be more like 75%.

@Redshift - so... no interest in putting the next generation of Model S on the F10 platform? ;)

Mathew98 | 13 febbraio 2014

@NoMoDinos - So when do you intend to live up to your moniker? Should we refer you as Brain Jr. instead?


NoVinNoMore | 13 febbraio 2014

Well I certainly fit the mold - we drive a Prius and a Lexus 450h. MS due to replace the Lexus. Oh and also a Chrysisler Town and Country to haul the dogs around.

sule | 13 febbraio 2014

I looked at a Prius some years ago and didn't like it. Never owned one. Didn't own any exotic cars either. For me Tesla is just a car that makes sense and comes with grin-inducing features as a bonus.

jcaspar1 | 13 febbraio 2014

Nice to see an American car stealing sales from the Japanese (as well as the Europeans)

I came from the opposite of a Prius, sold my Dodge Viper for my P85

NKYTA | 13 febbraio 2014

@Samo, not me. Sold my '85 vette (for almost what I bought it for 14 years ago) and gave my '98 Jetta to my niece...who is much more of a motorhead than me! Add in three.five years of saving up, bingo, NKYTA in the garage!

Suturecabre | 13 febbraio 2014

Put me in the coming from Mercedes camp....I was cross-shopping this with a GTR or R8, so this sounds about right. Between the tax credits, $400 a month gas savings, and near zero maintenance costs, it was a no-brainer.

attar | 13 febbraio 2014

It is so true I drove first Prius 2005 for seven years. Then bought second one for my daughter. Year later bought Lexus 250 hybrid for my wife. After loosing the Prius in 2013 in the accident, start looking for electric car. Finally end up buying Tesla S in April 2013. Been very happy with the car.

Canary2014 | 13 febbraio 2014

If I might add, my family and I are far from "wealthy". Most teachers are not wealthy, by far. Yet, it always amazes me how we have developed such a class society. Let me say, "Thank You" to those who are rich, wealthy, and earn a lot. That's what this nation is all about!!! Why do we resent those who are successful? Those who want to work hard and buy nice things. That's simply crazy for reporters to pit groups against one another!

Let me also say that my spouse and I did the math. We drive a Honda CRV and Toyota Tacoma. And, yes, they are paid off. In thinking about getting a new vehicle 1-year ago, my spouse charged me with doing the research. And here's the rest of the story....

After looking at Highlander Hybrid's and other hybrids, and doing the math. It became painfully clear to us that, basically, for a monthly payment of about $600 for an ICE vehicle, followed by about $400 per month in filling our current gas tanks, that is now upwards of $1000 per month. This does NOT include annual maintenance or regular oil changes. We and reporters often forget the other costs....But, let's keep it basic.

Given that we are ready to purchase a Model S 85 (not P+), we will basically be adding only about $300 per month. Now, having said all that, after 6-7 years, the lines cross and we start to earn our money back.

To conclude, I'm sorry for the long winded message, but I get so upset when we want to demonize those in our society who are financially successful....I say, "Good for you!" If it were for such risk takers, there would be no innovation....

Thanks everyone....

Canary2014 | 13 febbraio 2014

Oops. Sorry for the typos and grammatical errors...But it's kinda late her on the east coast....Thanks.

AmpedUP | 13 febbraio 2014

I think the Prius vs. "exotics" dichotomy explains why there is so little consensus on key features. E.G. there are many who claim that a P85 is the ONLY way to go. Similarly, the air suspension vs. coils seems to be a debate with no consensus. For the former Prius owner, the S60 seems like a rocket ship. For the former BMW owner, only the P85 or P85+ will do.

SamO | 14 febbraio 2014

Great observation AmpedUP. Even though I didn't have a Prius, I fall into that latter camp in that I believe the S60 is simply the finest car I could imagine driving.

The P85+ can be too much and passengers are almost overwhelmed by the acceleration (lack of passenger hand holds doesn't help.)

Many people love to ride roller coasters, they just don't want to do it every time they get into their car.

Bighorn | 14 febbraio 2014

I fit both sides with a Prius and six-speed BMW and Porsches. P85+ won out, though I started by considering entry level and kept adding on. I think thoughts of early retirement had me feeling that this might be my last great splurge, so why not go out with a bang?

DallasTxModelS | 14 febbraio 2014

My previous vehicles have been 81 Olds Cutlass V8 diesel, 85 Pontiac Grand Am V6, 87 Buick Riviera V6, 93 Dodge Ram Pickup Magnum V8, 95 Dodge Ram Crewcab Pickup Magnum V8, 2000 Dodge Ram Quad Cab Pickup 5.7L HEMI, 2005 Dodge Durango 5.7L HEMI, 2008 Dodge Charger RT 5.7L HEMI.

Hardly exotic, had no desire to own a Prius.

NomoDinos | 14 febbraio 2014

@Mat - ha, my hypocrisy revealed :) I'm still holding out for AWD, I'm giving it until December! The idea of a 600hp AWD P85+ gives me goose-bumps.

AoneOne | 14 febbraio 2014

I wouldn't bet on 600 hp. I would expect lots more low-end torque, but the maximum power might be limited to avoid damaging the batteries.

NomoDinos | 14 febbraio 2014

AoneOne - stop messing with my dreams! It's going to have 600 hp, luxurious seats with hot-stone massagers, a cappuccino machine, and Jessica Alba in the passenger seat.

AoneOne | 14 febbraio 2014

Well, three out of four ain't bad.

NomoDinos | 14 febbraio 2014

Ah well, I didn't want to spill cappuccino on my bepoke interior anyhow.

Brian H | 15 febbraio 2014

Nah, conquered is as close as it comes.

There's a verbal fad in buzzwordland of verbifying nouns arbitrarily. Argotifying the language is groupthinkification, known to greenlight self-esteeming without justification.

Baribrotzer | 15 febbraio 2014

@ Brian H: "There's a verbal fad in buzzwordland of verbifying nouns arbitrarily. Argotifying the language is groupthinkification, known to greenlight self-esteeming without justification."

Wow. That's easy for you to say.

Although what you mean is still understandable. With the real stuff, it's not - and that may be exactly the point: To bury one's ignorance of an issue or unwillingness to commit in a vast rubbish heap of barely-coherent bibble-babble. Quite useful for politics, or advertising, or some types of corporate infighting, I should imagine.

NomoDinos | 15 febbraio 2014

@BrianH - Thanks! Glad I Broogled it. Sounded fishy.

Bikezion | 17 febbraio 2014

I would guess that the front drive unit is the same one that is in the Rav 4 ev, and the B class ev (assuming of course they are the same unit). It is good for 174 hp in the B class. Add the 416 of the P, equals 590hp! Not bad at all, probably needs a little bigger battery though. It should be good for a full second off the quarter mile times, after accounting for the added weight of the drive unit and the bigger battery. 11.6 sec quarter mile from a 7 passenger family hauler, that gets the equivalent of 90 mpg? Yes I want one! You can keep Jessica!

NomoDinos | 17 febbraio 2014

Bikezion - deal! :) Thanks for the background, sounds like as good of a guess as I've heard. Whatever the final specs may be, it will be a beast to behold!

theapple | 17 febbraio 2014

Aww man, I'm a statistic! Sold my Prius after nearly 10 years and just barely managed to afford an S60. I do wish I could have afforded the better battery, but I'm already driving my dream car, and my wife still has an ICE for the longer trips (yes, it's a hybrid too...).

Nirvana | 17 febbraio 2014

5 motorcycles, 2 Mustangs, an old Subaru, Nissan Sentra, Honda Accord, Mazda pickup

No exotics, and never an interest in a Prius.

cvalhalla | 17 febbraio 2014

I might be the winner of the just another statistic award. The two cars I have now are a 2005 Prius and a Leaf. The a lease on the Leaf is up in May when I will be taking delivery of a S85. It is all about the electric motor for me.

NomoDinos | 17 febbraio 2014

The big question is if anyone has both a Prius AND an exotic. Lola, perhaps?

Mathew98 | 18 febbraio 2014

@NoMoDinos - I still have a hybrid as a backup. If I had a friend name Mystique, would that count as "exotic"?

Brian H | 19 febbraio 2014

I would not count on the rear motor being unchanged. Total battery draw is the constraint.

jordanrichard | 19 febbraio 2014

Not wealthy or a Prius owner, just being able to see the long term/big picture. BTW, here in the Northeast the price of gas is about to go up about 30 cents a gallon due to the upcoming switch to "summer blend" gas. The refineries have to shut down for a period of time to make the switch, so supplies of the winter blend will diminish and the price goes up. This is a seasonal thing that I am looking forward to not having to deal with next winter. I get my car next month. :-)

NomoDinos | 19 febbraio 2014

@Mat - hybrids are like the missing link between dinosaurs and the future of cars, so yes! I would think that as a matter of historical interest, they are quite exotic.

jvak | 20 febbraio 2014

I see little evidence of any correlation with the Prius as many have suggested .

85% DID NOT own a Toyota at time of purchase .

15% is not really special since Toyota is the #1 brand in the market where Tesla has sold . In addition , the Prius is outnumbered by the Camry and the many SUV's in the Toyota line.

The 11% figure of Mercedes , has more significance .

SamO | 20 febbraio 2014

How is 11% (Mercedes) more significant than Toyota (15%)?

lolachampcar | 20 febbraio 2014

never owned a Prius :)

jvak | 21 febbraio 2014

@Samo Sam

It is significant because Toyota sells 7x more vehicles than Mercedes . The difference should be 700% , but it is only 40%.

LMB | 21 febbraio 2014

(LMB spouse)

@NoMoDinos: The big question is if anyone has both a Prius AND an exotic.

LMB's previous car was a hybrid Camry and I still own a '67 Elan and '69 Elan +2. Not sure they count as exotics, though.

CC | 21 febbraio 2014

No Toyota or Exotics for me also..
Had a 1993 Honda Accord, then a 2004 Mazda 6S.

S60 can go on long trips too. Just need a little planning. Also, Tesla is increasing the density of the Superchargers, so even 60 owners will have no problems supercharger hopping to their destination.

joenanp | 21 febbraio 2014

When I buy one, I will have a GMC van and 2 old Buicks. I love driving my supercharged Regal to work but hate going to the gas station constantly.