Tesla posted record fourth-quarter and full-year earnings in what it called a “breakthrough year”, despite supply chain struggles.
The company made $5.5bn last year compared with the previous record of $3.47bn in net income posted in 2020. It was the electric vehicle and solar panel maker’s third straight profitable year.
“In 2021, our accumulated profitability since the inception of the company became positive,” Elon Musk, Tesla’s chief executive, said in a call with investors on Wednesday evening. “Which I think makes us a real company at this point. This is a critical milestone.”
Tesla – which relocated its headquarters from California to Texas last year – delivered a record 936,000 vehicles last year, nearly double the 2020 figure. Fourth-quarter vehicle sales hit 308,600, also a first.
Those numbers fell short of the 1m vehicles previously promised by the company, but came in the face of a global shortage of computer chips that has slowed the entire auto industry.
“Its home-run quarter indicates [Tesla] executed flawlessly with Musk doing an outstanding job navigating through global supply shortages,” said Jesse Cohen, senior analyst at Investing.com.
Musk said in a call with investors that the company would look to build new factories over the next year, announcing new locations by the end of 2022.
He predicted Tesla vehicles would achieve “full self-driving” by the end of 2022. However, Musk frequently receives criticism for his self-driving timelines, having fallen short on those promises in the past.
The company has also faced investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration over safety concerns with its Autopilot features. That investigation focused on 12 crashes in which Tesla owners collided with stationary vehicles, resulting in 17 injuries and one fatality.
Ahead of Tesla’s report, Musk tweeted that he had been driving a prototype of Tesla’s forthcoming electric pickup truck, Cybertruck, around the company’s factory in Austin, Texas, saying: “It’s awesome.”
Musk did say releases of that vehicle as well as its other forthcoming model, the Roadster, would be delayed until “hopefully next year” to focus more on “scaling output” of existing models in 2022.
“If we were to introduce new vehicles, our total vehicle output will decrease,” Musk said. “We will not be introducing new vehicle models this year.”
He also addressed questions about the potential for a more affordable Tesla, a topic investors have focused on after Musk hinted at a $25,000 electric car. Musk said Tesla is “not currently working” on it.
“At some point we will. We have enough on our plate right now,” Musk said. “Too much, frankly.”
Musk also addressed a humanoid robot model that could help built cars, something he previously announced in August 2020, calling it “the most important product development we’re doing this year”.
Tesla has weathered the global supply chain crisis better than other automakers, and analysts on average expect December-quarter revenue up 53% to $16.41bn and adjusted earnings per share of $2.32, according to Refinitiv.
Analysts have said Tesla’s two new factories in Texas and Berlin eventually could double production capacity, but it is not clear whether Tesla has started production.
“While production is not ready everywhere today, the fact that they are getting the facilities ready quickly and are building in flexible and new technologies, which will help them continue their rise,” said Alyssa Altman, analyst at consultancy Publicis Sapient.
Caught up in a broad selloff of growth stocks, Tesla’s stock has fallen about 23% from its record high close in November, and it is down 10% so far in 2022.
Stock fell in after-hours trading despite the positive report, perhaps owing to Musk’s admissions that supply chain issues could present headwinds for Tesla’s progress in 2022.