Tesla Is Just A Regular Car Company Now

Illustration for article titled Tesla Is Just A Regular Car Company Now
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Tesla had its sixth-consecutive profitable quarter in the fourth quarter of 2020, the company said Wednesday, making it the first time the company has booked a profitable year. Tesla’s day as a startup, it’s fair to say, are well in the rearview mirror.

Tesla reported a fourth-quarter 2020 profit of $270 million, and a full-year profit of $721 million, on revenues of $31.5 billion for the year. But let’s talk about that $270 million number for a minute since, again, like in the third-quarter it was not bigger than another number on Tesla’s shareholder deck: The amount of money Tesla made selling regulatory credits to other automakers, which was $401 million in the fourth quarter.

That amount is an increasingly small proportion of Tesla’s revenues — a little less than four percent in the fourth quarter, compared with seven percent in the third quarter — but it’s still the kind of thing Tesla critics will use to cudgel the company: Wake me up when Tesla is making all of its profits from purely selling cars.

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That moment could be coming this year, as Tesla said it expected to have all four of its plants across the world — in Shanghai, Berlin, Austin, and Fremont — up and running by the end of 2021. It also said that the Tesla Semi would see its first deliveries this year.

It also is updating the Model S and Model X. Both have been declining in sales in part likely because their designs are several years old, but Tesla has a plan to change that. The S and X will both get new powertrains and new interiors, along with some more minor changes to the exterior. It seems completely inevitable that Tesla will eventually introduce proper model years but they haven’t done so yet. That’s when we’ll know Tesla has really made it.

News Editor at Jalopnik. 2008 Honda Fit Sport.

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DISCUSSION

The Semi is the one that I think a lot of folks are underestimating...the absolute biggest difference that can be made, emissions/environmental-wise, is with trucks. Cars aren’t ‘clean’, of course, but a hell of a lot cleaner than trucks...and the number of trucks on the road is absolutely huge. Plus, they are a perfect use-case for electric...already large and heavy, with torque a priority for the powerplant, they will be able to lug huge batteries with ease and electric motors are torque monsters. Maintenance costs and longevity are also big concerns and expenses for trucking, so the lower maintenance requirements and longer life-expectancy of electric powerplants and ancillaries would be a boon to both fleet operators and owner/operators.

Once a truly viable truck chassis is available in electric, it’ll be a huge hit. If they are smart and do various size chassis (non-trailer versions, short/long wheelbase options, various sizes for local and long-range, etc.), then they will become ubiquitous...well, they’ll sell ‘em as fast as they build ‘em. If I was trying to start an electric vehicle company, I’d start with trucks...then pursue non-commercial customers.

BTW, was reading recently that small engines, lawn mowers and leaf blowers, for example, are awful polluters...anyone who lives in suburban New Jersey who is out and about on a Wednesday when all the people have their landscapers out in force are well aware of the smoke and smell. With the advances in small batteries and powerful small motors, they really need to eliminate small gas-powered engines. The sheer number of the things that exist and pollute is really holding back air quality improvement...