Is 2021 the year of Tesla, again?

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The new year is a lot like the old year, at least for Tesla and the investors and news cycles that can never get enough Elon.

The car company rang in 2021 by announcing it had delivered a record 499,550 vehicles for 2020. It sold 180,570 vehicles in the fourth quarter, slightly above the 174,000 analysts had predicted.

After a year that saw Tesla’s stock increase eightfold, the results showed Tesla keeping pace with the hype: Musk had set a goal of 500,000 vehicles sold in early 2020.

A dose of reality

On the other hand, as The Wall Street Journal pointed out, barely exceeding investor expectations “hardly represents a towering operational feat that should dazzle Wall Street.” Tesla joined the S&P 500 in December, and S&P 500 companies tend to reach forecasted benchmarks.

And Tesla’s market value of $670 billion is seven times higher than Ford and GM, despite Tesla having a far smaller market share.

In the second quarter alone, struggling Ford and GM each sold about as many cars as Tesla did all year.

Yet as Tesla short-sellers — who lost $35 billion in 2020 — know, it has not been smart to bet against Musk. And regardless of how you want to dissect Tesla’s sales figures, Musk did exceed expectations for 2020 compared to competitors.

  • Tesla sold 36% more vehicles in 2020 than in 2019
  • Going into Q4, GM’s vehicle sales were down 17%. Ford’s were down 18%.

The Takeaway: If Musk is being honest, he shouldn’t be too impressed with 499,550 cars delivered, either. He predicted in 2016 — after releasing the Model 3 — that Tesla would be selling 1 million cars by 2020.