Tesla has fallen short of its goal of delivering 500,000 cars in 2020 by only 450 vehicles. With 499,550 cars delivered, it has still set a record for manufacturers of electric vehicles in the number of vehicles delivered.
Tesla delivered 180,570 vehicles in Q4 2020, setting a personal quarterly record and beating even Wall Street’s expectations. Investors bet on Tesla delivering at least 174,000 vehicles in Q4 and that bet has paid off.
This year, Tesla stock (ticker symbol TSLA) surged by 743%, ending the year with a market cap of $669 billion. This was good enough for TSLA to be included in the S&P 500 index. It finished sixth in market cap for the year, beaten only by the large tech sector companies Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Alphabet (the parent company of Google), and Facebook.
Surviving a Challenging 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic does not seem to have hurt Tesla very much despite Musk’s battle with the state of California’s response to COVID-19 that led to him moving Tesla’s headquarters to Texas. On the one hand, California has moved to ban the sale of new gas-powered vehicles by 2035 and Californians who buy a new electric vehicle may qualify for tax credits and rebates like an up to $1,500 rebate being offered by the California Air Resources Board (CARB).
On the other, Pasadena County officials forced Tesla to temporarily suspend operations at the Gigafactory in the county until Musk stood up to them, threatening a lawsuit and a permanent closing of the factory, which would have cost the county 10,000 jobs. California has now declared Tesla an “essential business” that can remain open. This move may have made it possible for Tesla to roll on to a record-setting quarter and year for electric vehicle manufacturing and deliveries.
Tesla vehicles have sold especially well in Germany despite curveballs like the water being turned off due to an unpaid bill at Gigafactory Berlin, which is currently under construction. The Gigafactory is also facing legal challenges from German environmentalist groups that allege that Tesla has not addressed concerns about an endangered snake in the area.
Tesla is also being plagued by accusations of unsafe and unreliable vehicles. It has had to recall several thousand vehicles due to issues with the roofs or an unsecured bolt in the suspension. A separate recall in China was also sparked by issues with the suspension. Tesla is currently fighting a proposed class action lawsuit alleging that it has ignored or attempted to downplay safety issues. Consumer Reports has downgraded some Tesla models in its annual Auto Reliability Report due to these issues.
Progress Made in 2020
None of this appears to have hurt sales, however. On the plus side, Tesla is expanding its network of Superchargers in areas where its vehicles see strong sales. Some of them, like an installment of 20 Superchargers at a Fastned station in Düsseldorf, Germany, are completely solar powered. (Be sure to grab a snack and a drink at Fastned partner Seed & Greet Bakery while you wait for your car to charge.)
Tesla is currently considering a new Gigafactory somewhere in the United States, currently discussing expansion to India, and has expanded its renewable energy operations with a new UK Energy Plan.
Model 3 and Model Y vehicles seem to have been the big sellers for Tesla, with a combined total deliveries of 442,511 of these vehicles in the past year and 161,650 delivered in the fourth quarter. Tesla delivered 57,039 Model S and Model X vehicles in 2020 and 18,920 of them for the fourth quarter. Although Musk has floated the idea of a merger with another automaker (and, yes, said that Apple turned him down flat when he tried to sell in 2017) and also said that taking Tesla private would be “impossible,” Tesla has had an excellent year.