Tesla's rockin' Q4 numbers cap its first full year of profitability

Elon Musk and friends also delivered significantly more vehicles in 2020 than they managed in 2019.

Kyle Hyatt Former news and features editor
Kyle Hyatt (he/him/his) hails originally from the Pacific Northwest, but has long called Los Angeles home. He's had a lifelong obsession with cars and motorcycles (both old and new).
Kyle Hyatt
2 min read

Tesla had a great 2020 despite the pandemic, and this guy is stoked.

Liesa Johannssen-Koppitz/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Tesla released its fourth-quarter earnings and full-year results on Wednesday and the report is full of good news. For starters, the company just completed its first year of being in the black. Based on Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, Tesla managed a net profit of $721 million in 2020, $270 million of which came in Q4. That's pretty impressive, especially considering the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the world's economies (and the fact that Teslas aren't exactly cheap).

What we're especially interested in, though, isn't how much money Tesla made, but how well it's getting on in the world of building cars. In this, the Big T is also doing nicely, having produced and delivered around 500,000 vehicles globally in 2020. This is up significantly over the 367,500 vehicles it cranked out in 2019, which was a 50% increase over the vehicles produced in 2018.

A big part of Tesla's increased production is the successful ramp-up of the Shanghai Gigafactory, which the company claims is now producing 5,000 Model 3s per week. The Model Y is also in the process of being ramped up in China which, when combined with the German Gigafactory that's presently under construction as well as the Austin Cybertruck facility, should mean that 2021 will be an even bigger year for Tesla.

On the technology side of things, Tesla is continuing to work on its long-touted, as-yet-undelivered Full Self-Driving technology. It released a beta version of Full-Self-Driving to a limited group of customers toward the end of 2020 with mixed results. Despite criticism from other self-driving developers, Tesla is soldiering on without tech like lidar. To help with the back end of its self-driving tech, Tesla is working on a supercomputer called Dojo to process vast quantities of video footage from fleet vehicles and apply them to the company's neural network.

Finally, Tesla gave the aging Model S and X platforms yet another performance update called Plaid. Tesla claims that this new mode will allow Model S to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in under 2 seconds. This is in addition to some wild new interior features like an insane steering wheel and a rotated center display to make them more like Models 3 and Y.

While Tesla is truly coming into its own as a vehicle manufacturer, and one that appears to be here to stay, it's getting to the point now where the rest of the automotive industry is working hard to catch up. Will the Big T be able to maintain its lead?

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