Enough People Can Afford Tesla’s $70K Electric Car To Beat Sales Of Audis, BMWs & Mercedes

Tesla seems to be cruising along.

Tesla seems to be cruising along.

Remember back when the New York Times‘ controversial review of the Tesla Model S (with a starting price tag of $70,000) had the company’s CEO Elon Musk all hot and bothered, and the two sides bickered back and forth a bit? It seems that the brouhaha didn’t ding Tesla too badly — indeed, in the first quarter of this year, more people bought a Tesla Model S than similarly priced cars from fellow luxury brands Audi, Mercedes and BMW.

CNNMoney cites data from LMC Automotive, which shows that around 4,750 people purchased a Model S. Meanwhile Mercedes’ top-level sedan found 3,077 homes, the BMW 7-series had 2,339 buyers and the Audi sold 1,462 A8 vehicles.

There’s a bit of wiggle room in this comparison, it’s to be noted, as selling prices for the Mercedes S-class start near the upper end of the Tesla’s price range. The other cars are at the lower end. Another factor that could be driving (pun intended) consumers’ buying choices is the hefty $7,500 federal tax credit for buying a Tesla.

Tesla’s sales could get an even bigger bump, if not for states like North Carolina actively legislating to ban direct-to-consumer sales of the cars on their turf. As the Washington Post points out, it’s illegal in most states to allow customers to order up a car like they would a computer, have it built to their specifications and delivered to their doors. Tesla is currently pushing the state of Texas to allow such a model within its borders, and let consumers buy from the company directly.

North Carolina voted to pass a bill outlawing the direct sale of autos, and others are sure to follow as car dealerships fight to keep themselves relevant. And of course, relevancy here translates to the almighty dollar bill.

After all, if the car industry goes the way of department stores, which have been falling to the wayside in favor of sleeker, national retail models like big box stores and online shipping, dealerships will be increasingly cut out of the picture. And since there’s money to be made, they don’t want that to happen, natch.

Many state politicians rely on backing from car dealerships for political campaigns, making the industry’s lobbying efforts mighty effective thus far. But as consumers continue to demand that retailers cut out the middle man, it could be only a matter of time before your dream car shows up at your doorstep, honking and happy to see you.

Previously: Watch As Consumer Reports Goes Drifting In The $90,000 Tesla S 

Tesla sales beating Mercedes, BMW and Audi [CNNMoney]