Tesla put up big numbers in the second quarter of 2018, having delivered a total of 40,740 vehicles to Model S, X, and 3 customers. But the increase to production drew Tesla ever closer to the ceiling for the $7,500 electric vehicle tax credit that customers can take advantage of. Tesla won’t say if it reached that threshold—200,000 vehicle deliveries total in the U.S.—but it’s close.
Speculation has mounted for weeks about whether or not Tesla would eclipse 200,000 deliveries at the tail end of Q2, which would kick off the federally-mandated process to wind down the $7,500 credit. Six months later, it rolls back to $3,750; then six months after that, it’s halved to $1,875, before going away entirely. For those in line to buy a Model 3—particularly customers waiting for the elusive $35,000 base model—it factors in greatly to the cost of the car.
Tesla proudly touted its Q2 stats, but the automaker didn’t budge when asked this week if it had delivered its 200,000th car in the U.S.
“We don’t have any comment,” a spokesperson told Jalopnik. “Thanks.”
The IRS wasn’t any help either.
“Tesla isn’t listed on the page listing the quarterly sales of various companies,” a spokesperson for the agency said by email, pointing to a site any enterprising user of the Internet can find, “However, the following page lists the credit amount for various Tesla models, and years.”
That page says the $7,500 credit’s still available for each Tesla, but the opaque nature of the language surrounding the EV tax credit policy makes it difficult to discern where Tesla stands.
Take this, for example (emphasis ours):
The qualified plug-in electric drive motor vehicle credit phases out for a manufacturer’s vehicles over the one-year period beginning with the second calendar quarter after the calendar quarter in which at least 200,000 qualifying vehicles manufactured by that manufacturer have been sold for use in the United States (determined on a cumulative basis for sales after December 31, 2009) (“phase-out period”).
That caveat led to intense speculation over whether Tesla purposefully held onto thousands of Model 3s until after June 30, so buyers could continue to claim the full $7,500 credit until the end of 2018. Indeed, Tesla had 11,000 Model 3 vehicles “in transit” by the end of Q2 that, technically, weren’t delivered to customers just yet.
Bloomberg’s Tom Randall thinks it’s likely Tesla suppressed sales for this very reason. In a recent post on his Model 3 tracker, he highlighted how much this could benefit Tesla customers:
In my previous post I wrote about Tesla’s attempt to prolong the $7,500 U.S. incentive for electric cars by pushing sales into the next quarter. A reader on Twitter who goes by the handle @Smack_Check did the math on how much such an effort would be worth to Tesla’s customers: $366 million.
That’s the value of additional credits available if Tesla waits just one day (July 1, instead of June 30) to record its 200,000th sale in the U.S.
But did Tesla record 200,000 delivers before July 1?
There’s certainly reason to think so. The reliable InsideEVs blog posited recently that Tesla may’ve passed the 200,000 mark, but again, that could be left to how the IRS interprets what it means to have taken “delivery” of your car.
If this interpretation is correct, then it is possible Tesla passed 200k sales in June. Yet, if the IRS does not consider the vehicle to be legally ‘sold’ or ‘acquired’ until the title transfer is complete, it could mean Tesla did NOT trigger the rebate phase-out period.
What would help is an official comment from the IRS or Tesla, but the former seems helpless (based on the response we received) and the latter’s mum as can be. That leaves us to fight through the dense weeds of IRS legalese.
What’s clear is that Tesla hit around 150,000 deliveries in the U.S. by last fall, and Model 3 deliveries have been mostly confined to the states, meaning it has to be within a razor-thin mark of the 200,000 threshold. The automaker says it still has 420,000 net reservations for the Model 3, but with the $35,000 base trim not expected until 2019, it’s safe to say those hoping to get one at a sub-$30,000 price are almost certainly out of luck.