Less than one million cars sold, up 87.4%; 55.8 billion dollars in turnover which flies away by 71% and profits which reach 5.5 billion dollars: the year 2021 has been extraordinary for Tesla. These record figures for the manufacturer reflect the enthusiasm for its electric vehicles but also its ability to play around with the shortage of semiconductors and the supply problems which are seriously disturbing almost all of the world’s manufacturers.
Earnings are slightly above analysts’ forecasts.
“2021 has been a breakthrough year for Tesla. There should no longer be any doubt about the viability and profitability of electric vehicles,” the group commented in a press release.
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High-flying fourth trimester
Tesla ended the year on a high note, since in the fourth quarter alone, the group saw its turnover grow by 65% to 17.72 billion dollars and its net profit jump up to 2.3 billions of dollars. Earnings excluding exceptional items and reported per share, the benchmark on Wall Street, was $6.78, again exceeding forecasts. Management even claims that its operating margin in the fourth quarter was higher than those of all the large traditional automakers, “thus demonstrating that electric vehicles can bring in more money than thermal engine vehicles”.
For the fourth quarter of the year alone, Tesla reported a delivery record with 308,600 vehicles delivered (+70% compared to the same quarter of the previous year and +30% compared to the third quarter) when the financial analysts expected an average of 263,026 vehicles. The car manufacturer has thus chained its sixth consecutive quarter of record deliveries. A little earlier in the year, in the second quarter, Tesla had crossed, for the first time, the threshold of 200,000 cars delivered (201,250).
In total, with more than 936,000 cars delivered (911,208 copies of its 3 and Y models, and 24,964 vehicles of its luxury S and X models), the American manufacturer of high-end electric vehicles posted growth of 87.4%. What further inflate its stratospheric market capitalization which exceeds 940 billion dollars.
Production in China
In the fourth quarter, the group led by Elon Musk accelerated its production in China despite increased competition, regulatory pressure following consumer complaints related to security and the global shortage of electronic chips. Tesla has indeed managed to overcome the global logistics problems that have penalized the entire automotive sector. Elon Musk had already indicated that he was able to circumvent a good part of the shortage of semiconductors by using new chip designs and rewriting the software accordingly.
In France, while electric cars accounted for nearly 10% of sales in 2021 (9.8%, up 3.1 points), the Tesla Model 3 became number one in electric sales for the first time (and number 14 in general), ahead of the Renault Zoe (16th).
For 2022, Tesla says “the rate of growth will depend on (its) equipment capacity, operational efficiency, and supply chain capacity and stability.”
“Our own factories operated below capacity for several quarters, mainly due to the supply chain, which is expected to continue in 2022,” he adds.
To increase production, the group is counting on its new factories in Austin, Texas, and Berlin. Production was supposed to start there last year, but is still in the testing phase, Tesla said on Wednesday.
These announcements come as the group had to carry out several vehicle recalls at the end of December. On December 31, Tesla announced that it was going to carry out a new massive recall of vehicles for “potentially” defective trunks on two models in China and the United States: 475,000 vehicles are affected in the United States and nearly 200,000 in China.
The model most affected is the best-selling Model 3. Tesla indicates that “repeated opening and closing of the trunk door” there is “likely to cause excessive wear of the coaxial cable” connected to the rear view camera , which may make the camera unavailable to the driver. The other car affected is the luxury Model S. One of the trunk latches located at the front of the vehicle, misaligned, could “open unexpectedly and obstruct the driver’s visibility”. Tesla estimates that 1% of Model 3s and 14% of Model S recalled in the United States will have the manufacturing defect. The brand stressed that this potential defect had not, to its knowledge, caused any accident or injury. Tesla had already recalled 285,000 cars in China in June after an anomaly in its assisted driving software, and a few thousand Model 3s and Model Ys in the United States to inspect and tighten, or even replace, bolts in the brake calipers.
Volkswagen and Bosch join forces to try to counter Tesla
The German manufacturer Volkswagen and the equipment manufacturer Bosch announced last Tuesday a vast partnership to develop autonomous driving systems by 2023, in an area where the American Tesla has taken a step ahead. Volkswagen’s software subsidiary, Cariad, will develop with Bosch “features allowing drivers to temporarily take their hands off the wheel”. Intended for all models of the brands of the sprawling group, from the Volkswagen Polo to the luxury sports car Lamborghini, these systems will also be accessible to other manufacturers, Bosch customers.
The bet of the two partners: “to bring German software engineering to a new level” of expertise in autonomous driving. Volkswagen and Cariad are first targeting so-called level 2 autonomous driving systems, which will allow the driver to momentarily let go of the steering wheel while remaining attentive, “in town, in the countryside and on the highway”. The two partners will also develop a level 3 system on the motorway. This level of autonomy, the most advanced currently, available in certain top-of-the-range cars, allows the driver to divert his gaze from the road and to give the vehicle all the driving. However, the driver retains the possibility of taking control at any time and must intervene within a certain period of time if the vehicle requests it.
The possibility of developing a fully automated, Level 4 driving system will be “assessed”. The potential for the self-driving car is enormous, with some 64% of vehicles sold in 2030 having Level 2 or higher self-driving functions, according to research by McKinsey. At the heart of the race for the autonomous and connected car of the future, software has become strategic for Volkswagen, an area where it plans to invest 27 billion euros by 2025.