Tesla has reported its sixth straight profitable quarter, and its first annual profit, after more than doubling its earnings per share from a year ago, and says it is looking forward to another year of spectacular growth.
Recording a $US270 million profit, equal to 24 cents per share, up on 2019’s fourth-quarter profit of $US105 million, or 11 cents per share, Tesla also reported a 46% increase in revenue to $US10.74 billion, thanks to “substantial growth in vehicle deliveries”.
Tesla missed its 2020 EV sales target of 500,000 by just a whisker, but it now has a reported capacity at its Fremont and Shanghai factories of 1,050,000, and that is set to increase again once its Berlin and Texas factories open later in 2021.
“It will also make it easier having a factory in Berlin and one in Texas, just from a logistics standpoint,” Musk said at the earning calls earlier on Thursday (Australian time).
“Texas can help supply the eastern half of the US and Berlin can help supply Europe, and there’s just fewer cars on boats, much less capital tied up with the cars that are on boats or being transported to customers.
“I think the fundamental efficiency of the company will be much better with having factories on …. each continent and having two factories in the US, so I’m super excited about the future.”
Musk and CFO Zachary Kirkhorn stopped short of giving sales guidance for the coming year but did say that deliveries will likely be skewed to the second half of 2021 as Model Y production in Shanghai ramps up and the new Model S and Model X refresh lines get back into action.
While Tesla shares dropped in value some 7% in after-hours trading as investors expressed disappointment at the lack of a clear sales target for 2021, Musk mused about the company’s market cap – which grew by 700% in 2020 – and has been criticised by some analysts as over-valued.
Much of this Musk attributes to the unrealised potential of Tesla’s Full Self Driving (FSD) technology, otherwise known as FSD.
“We’ve made massive progress on Full Self Driving,” said Musk, pointing to the many public videos made by beta testers in the San Francisco Bay area that now number at around 1,000, as well as personal driving experience with the FSD package.
“With each successive release of the beta of the software just, it’s really improving rapidly. It’s now very common for me to have no intervention on projects that I do, including drives to places I’ve never been to.”
Musk envisages much of the value of Tesla is in how much more utility FSD will lend to each vehicle once it is approved by regulators for use in “robotaxis”, which could see driving hours increased five-fold from 12 hours to 60 hours a week.
Amongst other innovations that Tesla put in place in 2020 that it says will add to its growth is the use of massive “Giga Press” machines to make single-piece rear body castings.
It has already started using this in the Model Y and also has plans to use the manufacturing process for the Cybertruck, which Musk says Tesla may start delivering in low numbers in late 2021, with volume ramping up in 2022.
“So in conclusion, while 2020 was a turning point for Tesla …. we believe this is just the beginning,” said Musk.
“We think 2021 is going to be even more exciting …. as long as 2021 is a relatively normal year from an external standpoint, I think it’s going to be a great year.”
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.