Tesla: how Elon Musk brought his electric cars to the top of sales

Quarter after quarter, sales of electrified cars never stop climbing. According to a study just published by German analyst Matthias Schmidt, in the first three months of the year, 546,000 electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles were sold in Western Europe. That’s just over one in five new vehicles! On the podium of the most purchased rechargeable models, we find the Model S in first place and the Model Y in second place. A full box for Elon Musk’s Tesla. Better, all engines combined, the Model 3 was the car that sold best in Europe in March, ahead of the Peugeot 208 and the Model Y, which itself did better than the Volkswagen Golf. A true Copernican revolution.

Historic manufacturers who have long chuckled comparing Teslas to improved lawnmowers must now be laughing… wolfishly. “The performance is remarkable, even if it is to be qualified because it comes at a time when the new market has fallen sharply (- 20% compared to March 2021), points out Jean-Pierre Corniou, specialist in the automotive sector at Sia Partners. The uncertainties linked to the international context, between the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, have prompted many buyers to turn to the second-hand market to limit their expenses”. The now Texan manufacturer is also outperforming because it has been able to anticipate the shortage of semiconductors, by building up solid stocks and adapting its software, when most of its competitors have had to stop their production lines repeatedly due to lack of electronic chips. .

Nearly a million Tesla sold in 2021

This does not detract from Tesla’s performance. While the brand came close to leaving the road in 2018 – and its boss burned out – faced with the difficult ramp-up of the Model 3, it sold nearly a million of its small electric cars in 2021 (+ 87% compared to 2020). Above all, after years of abysmal losses, Tesla posted a profit of 5.5 billion dollars, for a turnover of 54 billion. Or an operating margin of 12.1% in 2021, which rose to 19% in the first quarter of 2022. Enough to propel Tesla among the most profitable manufacturers on the auto planet. Exceptional profitability can be explained both by extremely advanced integration (the manufacturer goes so far as to manufacture its own seats) and the sale of its vehicles directly, on the Internet and in its own dealer network.

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A simple appetizer if we are to believe the billionaire of South African origin who has just got his hands on the social network Twitter. The one who is also boss of Space X, Neuralink and The Boring Company ensures that he can reach 10 million copies sold annually in the medium term, and 20 million within ten years. That’s double what the market leader, Toyota, manages to sell today! A disproportionate goal, as always with the richest man on the planet, but not delusional, as Tesla has just inaugurated two new Gigafactories in Berlin, Germany, and Austin, Texas. Two units in addition to those in Fremont, California, and Shanghai, China. They should each be capable of producing 500,000 vehicles per year. A rise in power which will notably involve securing the rare metals essential to battery chemistry (cobalt, lithium and nickel).

The manufacturer also announced on Tuesday May 10 that it had signed a long-term commercial agreement with the Brazilian mining group Vale, which undertakes to supply it with nickel extracted from its Canadian mines. The latter have an annual production capacity of 75,000 tonnes. In recent months, Tesla has multiplied partnerships of this type to get out of the dangerous dependence of the battery industry on rare metals under Chinese domination.

After cars, Tesla humanoid robots

Nothing and no one seems to be able to stop Tesla’s powerful acceleration… except Tesla himself. “If Musk is still a few years ahead of its competitors in the ability of its vehicles to draw more power and range from its engines, it seems to be having a hard time solving its reliability problems, points out Jean-Pierre Corniou In 2021 alone, all generations combined, 475,000 Teslas were recalled to dealerships due to poor workmanship, that’s huge!”. The problems most often affect Tesla’s Autopilot (semi-autonomous piloting), which also exposes it to mass collective action in the event of an increase in serious accidents.

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Last problem to date, the overheating of the central screen can lead to significant malfunctions. 130,000 vehicles manufactured in 2021 and 2022 have just been recalled. A detail for Elon Musk who is already projecting himself into his new Tesla Bot project, since renamed Optimus. A humanoid robot presented last summer as a sort of daily assistant, at the service of workers in factories as well as families of the future. The first copy should be unveiled at the end of the year, and the billionaire says he is convinced that in the long term it will bring in more money for Tesla than the sale of cars. We are, of course, not obliged to take Musk at his word. But the man has already demonstrated on many occasions that his statements should always be taken seriously.


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