Tesla Tops California Green-Car Credit Sales in Past Year

Tesla Motors Inc., the electric-car maker led by Elon Musk, was the top seller of California zero-emission vehicle credits in the past year as Toyota Motor Corp. led hybrid-car credit trades, according to a state tally.

Tesla transferred 1,311.52 ZEV credits from Oct. 1, 2012, through Sept. 30 of this year, 32 times the number of Suzuki Motor Corp., the next biggest seller, according to a California Air Resources Board report yesterday. Toyota transferred 507.5 AT PZEV credits, those generated by its Prius hybrid, and General Motors Co. acquired the same number, the report said.

Prices and specific trades between companies aren’t tracked by California, said Dave Clegern, a spokesman for the Sacramento-based agency. All automakers covered by the program are “in compliance and that to us is the goal,” he said.

California, with authority to set pollution rules that are more stringent than U.S. standards, requires automakers to sell electric or other non-polluting vehicles in proportion to their market share in the state. The state’s target is to get 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2025.

Companies listed by California as acquiring ZEV credits from Oct. 1, 2012, to Sept. 30 were Chrysler Group LLC, the U.S. automaker controlled by Fiat SpA; GM; Honda Motor Co.; Jaguar Land Rover; Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd.’s Subaru; and Volkswagen AG. The report didn’t identify the supplier of credits to each of those carmakers.

The annual state tally shows credits based on exhaust emissions rather than numerical units generated per vehicle.

‘Proprietary’ Transfers

While Suzuki, based in Hamamatsu City, Japan, doesn’t currently sell electric vehicles in California, companies can transfer credits accumulated in the past, Clegern said. Suzuki discontinued U.S. auto sales in 2012.

Toyota, the world’s biggest seller of hybrid-electric autos, has “neither bought nor sold credits,” said John Hanson, a company spokesman. The carmaker’s Prius was the best-selling vehicle line in California last year and remained in the top spot through 2013’s first three months, according to a report from the California New Car Dealers Association.

ARB rules allow manufacturers to transfer credits as well as sell them, and those arrangements are considered “proprietary” information by companies, Clegern said.

Shad Balch, a GM spokesman, said the Detroit-based automaker doesn’t discuss its California credits.

“California’s regulations are strict and flexibility is important as we develop new advanced technology vehicles to meet them,” Balch said.

Elizabeth Jarvis-Shean, a spokeswoman for Tesla, declined to comment on the ARB’s report. Tesla alone discloses the value of credit sales in its quarterly reports.

Tesla Credits

Tesla fell 0.4 percent, to $182.80 at the close in New York. The stock has risen more than fivefold this year.

The company, intending to be the world’s biggest and most profitable seller of rechargeable autos, has reported ZEV credit sales this year through June worth $119 million, or 12 percent of its first-half revenue. Musk, the company’s co-founder and biggest shareholder, has said such credit sales will decline in the second half from the first six months of 2013.

The automaker plans to sell 21,000 Model S sedans worldwide this year. The Palo Alto, California-based company is too small to be required to accrue the state’s ZEV credits and can sell all it generates. It hasn’t yet released ZEV revenue for the quarter that ended Sept. 30.

Each Model S, priced from $70,000 to more than $100,000, generates as many as seven ZEV credits, the maximum issued by California. That’s because of its driving range of as much as 300 miles (483 kilometers) per charge and ability to be rapidly refueled by swapping its battery pack with a charged one.

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