DETROIT (AP) — Tesla Inc. on Wednesday reported record fourth-quarter and full-year earnings as deliveries of its electric vehicles soared despite a global shortage of computer chips that has slowed the entire auto industry.
Though the company predicted it would be able to build 50% more vehicles than it did last year, CEO Elon Musk said the chip shortage would prevent the company from launching new models in 2022. That means another delay for the Cybertruck pickup, which was originally supposed to go on sale last year.
Musk also said Tesla isn’t working on a promised $25,000 small electric car yet, but will.
“To be honest, we’ve got just enough on our plate,” he said.
And Musk said the company is considering building more factories and will provide an update on locations later in the year.
The Austin, Texas-based company made $5.5 billion last year, compared to the previous record year of $721 million in net income in 2020. Musk said the annual profit is the company’s cumulative profits since inception pushed into profitable territory in 2003.
Last year was a breakthrough year for the company, Musk said in a conference call with analysts.
“There should be no more doubt about the viability and viability of electric vehicles,” Tesla said in a letter to shareholders.
Factory production was limited last year, Musk said, as the company focused its resources on modifying vehicles and manufacturing to deal with chip shortages and other supply chain issues that will remain in place this year. Lots of engineering work and factory tooling is underway to produce the retarded Cybertruck, Semi and a new Roadster that he now hopes will be production-ready next year.
If Tesla started building new vehicles this year, fewer vehicles would be shipped as attention and resources were devoted to the new model, he said.
Tesla said it began building Model Y SUVs with more advanced battery cells at its new factory near Austin late last year. After final certification, delivery to customers will begin. The company said it is testing devices at its new factory in Germany and is still trying to get a manufacturing permit from local authorities.
The company said its “Full Self-Driving” software is now being tested on public roads by owners in nearly 60,000 vehicles across the United States. In the third quarter, it was only about 2,000. The software, which costs $12,000 and cannot yet drive itself, is intended to accelerate Tesla’s profitability, the company said.
Musk said he’d be shocked if software couldn’t drive safer than humans this year, though he dodged a question about whether the company would achieve full autonomy in 2022. The assistance system and the driver must be ready to intervene at any time.
In 2019, Musk predicted a fleet of autonomous Tesla robotic taxis would be on the roads by the end of 2020.
US safety agencies are investigating a complaint about the safety of “full self-driving” and are also investigating why Teslas, which operate on a less sophisticated semi-automated system called “Autopilot,” have repeatedly crashed into parked emergency vehicles.
In the fourth quarter, Tesla made $2.32 billion. Excluding special items such as stock-based compensation, the company earned $2.54 per share. That beat Wall Street’s expectations of $2.36 per share. Revenue for the quarter was $17.72 billion, according to FactSet, also beating analysts’ estimates of $17.13 billion.
Tesla delivered a record 936,000 vehicles last year, almost double the number in 2020. Fourth-quarter vehicle sales reached 308,600, also a record. Tesla said it expects 50% annual growth in vehicle deliveries “over a multi-year horizon.”
It also said Musk was paid $245 million in the fourth quarter for hitting some operational milestones in his compensation package.
The company said it was able to drive cost-cutting and increase vehicle sales in the final quarter of the year. But Chief Financial Officer Zachary Kirkhorn warned that the startup of Austin and Berlin factories, as well as pressure from rising commodity prices and supply chain costs, will increase Tesla’s costs this year.
Shares of Tesla initially tumbled in extended trading following the earnings announcement, but then rallied, down less than 1%. The stock closed down 2% on Wednesday at $937.41.