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Tesla reports 87% increase in 2021 deliveries

In the fourth quarter alone, the company
delivered more than 308,000 vehicles, a 71% increase from the quarter a year
earlier. The overwhelming share of the deliveries were of the Model 3 sedan and
the Model Y hatchback. Wall Street analysts had been expecting deliveries of
about 266,000 cars in the fourth quarter and about 855,000 for the year.

“The numbers are hard to poke holes in,”
Daniel Ives, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, wrote in a note to investors.
“While there are many competitors in the EV space, Tesla continues to dominate
market share as evidenced again this quarter.”

Tesla increased sales despite a global
shortage of computer chips, which serve as the brains for a variety of
electronics, including engine controllers and touch screens. The shortage
forced most automakers to idle some plants for weeks at a time and kept them
from producing as many vehicles as they had planned.

In July, Tesla’s chief executive, Elon Musk,
said his company was overcoming the shortage by switching to types of chips
that were more readily available and writing new instructions, or firmware, to
be embedded into the chip. Tesla can make such a switch because the components
in its cars are designed to be controlled largely by software.

Tesla does not break out its deliveries by
country. Much of its recent growth has been propelled by sales in Europe and
China.

The jump in deliveries capped a momentous year
in which Tesla’s stock price and profits soared. It has also worked to open
factories near Austin, Texas, as well as Berlin, in hopes of sustaining its
rapid growth.

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In October, Tesla’s market value for the first
time exceeded $1 trillion, making it more valuable than General Motors, Ford
Motor, Toyota, Volkswagen, Stellantis, BMW and several other automakers
combined.

On Friday, Tesla’s stock closed at $1,056.78,
up from just under $700 at the end of 2020. The stock’s rise was fueled by
increasing sales and profits. In the third quarter, the company earned $1.6
billion, more than double its earnings in all of 2020, its first profitable
year.

With shares at dizzying heights, Musk began
selling large chunks of his stock, partly to cover taxes, after taking a poll
among his followers on Twitter. Several times he said he was done selling but
continued.

In total, Musk sold more than $16 billion
worth of Tesla stock. The transactions involved the exercising of 22.8 million
options awarded to Musk as part of his compensation and bonus packages.

Tesla has said it hopes deliveries will
increase about 50% a year for the next several years and is counting on output
from its Austin and Berlin factories to reach its goal. Both factories are
expected to begin producing Model Y hatchbacks soon.

At the same time, Tesla’s product quality has
remained uneven. On Thursday, the company told federal regulators that it
planned to recall more than 475,000 cars for two separate defects that could
affect safety — a misaligned latch on the front hood, which could allow the
hood to open unexpectedly, and wiring to the rearview camera that can be
damaged by opening and closing the trunk. A day later, vehicles in China were
recalled as well.

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In addition, the company and its Autopilot
driver-assistance system have come under closer scrutiny by US safety
regulators. Teslas have been involved in a series of crashes with other
vehicles, including some that resulted in fatalities, while the Autopilot
system was engaged.

The company continues to promote its Autopilot
system, which can take over some of the steering, braking and accelerating
tasks from drivers, and a more advanced set of features, Full Self Driving,
that it offers for $10,000 but has so far allowed only a select group of
customers to test.

In August, the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration opened a formal investigation into how Autopilot recognizes
objects on the road. It is specifically looking into 11 instances when Teslas
crashed into emergency vehicles that had stopped on highways and had their
lights flashing.

The agency is also looking at more than two
dozen other crashes involving Teslas that were under Autopilot control. Eight
of those crashes have resulted in a total of 10 deaths since the first occurred
in 2016.

©2021 The New York Times Company

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