Tesla & Elon Musk Made Sedans Cool Again For a Brief, Shining Moment.

by Gabrielle DeSantis

The sedan is dead. However, even dead things can let out a last ghostly gasp from time to time. For a brief, shining moment, Tesla and Elon Musk gave the sedan one last breath of fresh air. Historically, the sedan is certainly one of America’s fastest declining segments. Nowadays, those with families, and even those without, turn to the SUV, or the truck, or the crossover. But Tesla changed that with one car.

Tesla jolted the sedan back to life

Resting in Catalunya | Joan Cros via Getty Images

The Tesla Model S experienced a meteoric rise on its debut back in 2012. Of course, things were off to a somewhat slow start. EV culture was in its infancy, and range anxiety was way more of an issue than it is now. However, year by year, the Tesla sedan became something no one really thought it would be: a status symbol.

Normally, when we think of cars as status symbols, we think BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Lamborghini, Ferrari. Storied brands with history and that oh-so-important “pedigree” factor. They’re classic symbols of wealth that Tesla simply wasn’t at the time. However, the Model S changed what that meant. It pushed the status symbol spotlight from objects of wealth onto something else: consciousness.

The Model S, for all its flaws, deserves the limelight

The center display of a 2017 Model S
The Model S center display | Patricia de Melo via Getty Images

Now, I use conciousness here as a similie for forward-thinking. Because that’s what the Tesla Model S came to represent, for a while at least. People were buying a Tesla Model S to say “look, I care about the environment. My car is green, baby!” And it worked. Those ideas of forward-thinking and conciousness have become symbols of status just as much as zeros in a bank account, or how many cows you killed for your Bentley.

The sales numbers reflected that trend for a while too. Just look at the sales statistics from GoodCarBadCar. Up until 2018, the Tesla Model S was on an upward trend. All of that is justly deserved, marketing antics aside. The Model S elevated the sedan. It something to aspire to again, not some massive truck with 70-inch rims, lightbars screaming into the night.

Unfortunately, the Model X &Y were the nail in the coffin

A closeup of a white Model S sedan charging in Germany
Charging in Germany | Dünzl via Getty Images

That is, until Tesla’s other, larger SUV and crossover options began to catch on. Tesla took a hit in production sometime between 2018 and 2019, and frankly, the Model S never recovered. The brand’s larger options, however, did. As of this year, the Model X outsells the Model S.

But, for a very brief period of time, Tesla changed the perception of what a status symbol was, and the sales numbers back that up. Sure, Elon Musk needs to be more realistic in his marketing. Yes, Tesla has quality control issues, and the company needs to change drasically. But they helped shift the status quo towards a greener means of transportation. So thanks, Tesla.

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