After seeing its share price drop 65 percent in 2022 and 37 percent in December alone, Tesla reported record vehicle deliveries for the fourth quarter and the full year on Monday. The electric vehicle maker delivered 405,278 cars in the last three months of 2022, bringing its total for the year to 1.31 million. While both figures represent new records for Tesla, both fell short of Wall Street expectations. Analysts had expected roughly 420,000 deliveries for the fourth quarter and the 40 percent increase in annual deliveries fell short of Tesla’s own goal of averaging 50 percent growth over multiple years.
Despite the shortfall, Tesla’s production and delivery scale-up over the past few years has been pretty impressive. After Elon Musk had unveiled the mass-market Model 3 in 2016, pre-orders quickly exceeded the number of cars Tesla had built in its lifetime, leading to questions of whether the company could actually meet the demand. After Tesla delivered the first Model 3 in July 2017, The New York Times wrote: “Tesla’s expansion comes with a set of risks. It plans to more than quadruple its annual production to more than a half-million vehicles, while still maintaining its image as an enlightened outlier in an industry long dominated by global giants — who are racing to develop electrified vehicles of their own.”
And while Tesla has in fact lost some of its appeal as an “enlightened outlier”, particularly since Musk’s Twitter takeover and everything that came with it, it did increase its production capacity manyfold since 2017, all while managing to keep industry heavyweights such as Toyota, Volkswagen or General Motors at arm’s length. In fact, the 1.31 million vehicles Tesla delivered in 2022 are just 85,000 short of the combined total number of cars the company delivered between 2012 and 2020.“The biggest challenge for us is, how do we build a lot more cars?” Musk said in 2017. And while his company met that challenge remarkably well, new challenges have arisen since then. Polling company Morning Consult recently found that Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover has made him a polarizing figure and that his increasingly divisive image is spilling over on brands associated with him, including Tesla first and foremost.