Tesla Is Making Record Profits, but It's Not Nearly Enough to Match Musk's Growth Goals

Elon Musk stands by his Tesla car after leaving the courthouse during an ongoing legal dispute surrounding his supposed 2018 plans to take Tesla private. It’s just one of many scandals surrounding the company that puts a damper on Tesla’s record profits.
Elon Musk stands by his Tesla car after leaving the courthouse during an ongoing legal dispute surrounding his supposed 2018 plans to take Tesla private. It’s just one of many scandals surrounding the company that puts a damper on Tesla’s record profits.

If Tesla was any other company, most analysts would think it a shining diamond compared to the hard time most other tech-related companies have had at the end of 2022. But this is Tesla, driven by the (cough) magnificent billionaire Elon Musk.

Analysts expected Tesla to share record-setting profits for its fourth quarter of 2022, and the company didn’t disappoint. The fourth quarter brought $24.3 billion in profit, which was 37% up year over year. Total revenue for 2022 was also up 51%. Tesla delivered over 405,000 cars this past quarter, which while missed analysts estimates amid fears of waning demand, it was still up from last quarter. It was also much better from earlier this year when the company reported its first decline in profits in over a year.

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Musk has previously said he wants to sell 20 million cars annually by 2030. This would make his company the biggest vehicle maker in all the world. He would need much more than his U.S., Berlin, and Shanghai electric vehicle factories to make that happen. That may be a problem, since Musk has called several of his factories “money furnaces.”

On Tuesday, Tesla announced in a blog post it was planning a $3.6 billion addition to its lithium-ion battery plant located in Reno, Nevada, calling it “Gigafactory Nevada.” One of those new facilities included in the plan is supposed to produce the company’s electric semitrailer truck that finally saw the light of day last month after being several years behind schedule.

As for its much-delayed Cybertruck, Tesla promised it would begin production “later this year” at the Texas Gigafactory. The company even promised a “next generation vehicle platform” with additional details coming out in March for the company’s annual investor day.

But this promise of growth among a 41% year-over-year boon to shareholders’ wallets also comes at a time of deepening controversy surrounding the company. Tesla recently slashed the price of its vehicles up to 20% for some models in select countries, which made quite a few new Tesla owners angry when the company denied them rebates for buying too soon. Tesla has missed its 50% growth target for 2022 and quietly put in place plans to slow production at its factory located in Shanghai, China this past month. The company promised it would get production up to its 50% target “as quickly as possible,”

In the quarterly report, Tesla said most of its production and delivery challenges were centered in its Shanghai plant. The company also admitted it does not expect “meaningful sequential volume increases in the near term.”

Musk is busy with so many companies, from Neuralink to SpaceX to Tesla and now Twitter as well. On Wednesday, a Twitter user asked Musk about a report from The Intercept that showed Twitter capitulated to Indian Prime Minister Nahrendra Modi’s request the platform take down a BBC documentary critical of his regime. In classic fashion, Musk deflected, saying he’s just too damn busy at all his companies to know everything that’s going on.

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Musk has also sold billions of dollars worth of Tesla stock all throughout 2022 to help finance his $44 billion Twitter buyout. And even after promising on Twitter he would not be selling any more Tesla stock, he sold nearly $4 billion in November and another $3.6 billion in December, all to prop up Twitter.

Musk is also at the center of multiple lawsuits regarding his tenure at Tesla. One class action lawsuit by Tesla shareholders has called the CEO out personally for his infamous 2018 “funding secured” tweet alluding to taking the company private. Another ongoing lawsuit takes aim at Musk’s $56 billion pay package the company granted him to stay as CEO. The plaintiff, in this case another Tesla shareholder, has said that Musk doesn’t deserve all that money since his responsibilities are so scattered among his other companies.

And there’s still the question of where Tesla’s driver-assist functions will go into 2023. A recent multi-car pile up on San Francisco’s Bay Bridge has been reportedly linked to the autopilot feature. The quarterly report mentioned Tesla has shipped its “Full Self Driving” beta to the 400,000 U.S. and Canadian customers who bought it who have collectively driven around 90 million miles using the feature since 2021. The company had no word about the controversy surrounding FSD or reports of federal investigations surrounding the autopilot feature.

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