Since Tesla began operations in 2003, the electric car company — named after 19th- and 20th-century inventor Nikola Tesla — has been a gamechanger for the automotive industry. In just 16 years, Tesla has become one of the most important automakers in the business.

Never mind just electric vehicle sales, the Tesla Model 3 is now the best-selling luxury vehicle in the US overall, with more than 140,000 sold in 2018. The Model 3 helped the startup car company achieve 197,517 total sales last year, according to industry sales tracker GoodCarBadCar, allowing the all-EV luxury automaker to rank 20th among the top 35 auto marques sold in America. That ranking means Tesla’s 2018 sales bested brands such as Chrysler, Acura, Cadillac and Infiniti.

As Tesla’s popularity grows, it still has some hurdles to overcome, including build quality and reliability issues. For some customers, those issues have been exacerbated by Tesla’s lack of a traditional service network. There’s also ongoing concerns around the company’s financial condition.

It’s also a good idea to assess how your location and lifestyle will blend with an EV. Living in a rural area far from Tesla’s Supercharger network could greatly impact your ownership experience. The answer, of course, is to ensure that you have access to Level 2 (240-volt) charging. The latter can run roughly $2,000 to $3,000 to have installed in your garage or parking space. Yes, a standard Level 1 (110-volt) connection from a common household electrical outlet will charge a Tesla, but the charge rates are problematically slow — only about 5 miles of range per hour of charging. That means even a base Model 3 with the 220-mile battery pack could take more than 40 hours to recharge.

Tax credits and other incentives

One more important factor: Check on your tax credit situation — there are federal, state, regional and other tax credits available for buying electric cars, including ones offered by your local power utility company. Research these closely, as they could impact your buying decision.

For example, for deliveries until June 30, 2019, Tesla vehicles are still eligible for a $3,750 federal tax credit. For new vehicles delivered between July 1 to Dec. 31, 2019, that incentive drops to $1,875. Tesla has an extensive website page dedicated to applicable tax incentives (including on its solar products). It’s worth studying closely, as it could save you a lot of money.

Tesla also offers other short-term sales incentives regularly, including free Supercharging and referral code-based programs.

 

Tesla through the years

Originally founded in 2003 by a pair of engineers, Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, Tesla gained Elon Musk as principal investor and chairman in 2004.

In 2008, Musk became Tesla’s CEO. That was the same year the company introduced its first automobile: the Tesla Roadster. Although priced at more than $100,000, the all-electric Lotus Elise-based Roadster was remarkably advanced for its time, with a 245-mile range and a sub-4-second 0-60 time on the way to a top speed of 125 mph.

The Roadster would eventually pave the way for the Model S five-door in 2012, followed up with the Model S-based Model X crossover SUV in 2015 and the Model 3compact luxury sedan in 2017.