Tesla's 2019 was one hell of a rollercoaster ride. The first half of the year saw things looking grim for the world's most hyped electric car maker, with shortfalls on deliveries and questions about profitability. Then, in the second half of the year, things changed dramatically and saw Tesla's stock prices reach a level that no other automobile manufacturer has dreamed of. What was the driving force behind this surge?
Well, to start, Tesla's been focusing heavily on the Chinese market. This means that it crunched to get its first foreign Gigafactory ready to produce cars in just 10 months. To be clear: 10 months from groundbreaking outside Shanghai to having finished, Chinese-built Model 3s rolling out of the building. Finally announcing the location of the first European Gigafactory was also a massive bit of news, even if the land it's destined for was.
The company was also buoyed significantly by the almost deafening hype surrounding the launch of itsand its promise of three motors and 500 miles of range. Oh, and unbreakable glass, but that still needs work. Beyond that, the company also claims to be making progress on the production ramp-up for the Model 3-based Model Y at the factory in Fremont, California and deliveries for the electric crossover set for March. Tesla plans to deliver half a million vehicles in 2020 between Fremont and Shanghai's production.
So, beyond the hype and stock prices, what state are Tesla's finances in as of January 2020? They're good, overall, but there is one area where the company has slipped slightly compared to Q3 of 2019, and that's in gross margin. The dip isn't big, but it is a step in the wrong direction when the Big T is trying to hit that magic 25% figure that Elon Musk and Co. have been talking about for ages now. Automotive gross margin is down 0.3% (22.5% from 22.8%) while GAAP margin is down by just 0.1%.
We also find it interesting that Tesla's gross profit decreased by 7% year-over-year, despite showing a healthy 17% quarter-over-quarter improvement.
When it comes to the business of actually building cars, Tesla is doing a bang-up job. It managed to crank out nearly 87,000 Model 3s in Q4 and even boosted production on Models S and X by 10 percent over the previous quarter. Actual deliveries were at their highest point of the year, with 96,620 Model 3s finding their owners and 19,475 S and X models doing the same. S and X deliveries were down by over 20% compared to 2018, but that's to be expected given their higher cost and serious age disadvantage versus Model 3.
So, now the question will be whether Tesla can deliver in 2020 on the big promises it made in 2019. Can it keep its momentum up, or will we see another slump if it hits snags in the product development cycle for Model Y, etc.? What other crazy things can we expect this year from a company that continually manages to shock and surprise its fans, its detractors and the press?
We're looking forward to finding out.