Tesla delivered 499,550 vehicles in 2020, a 36% year-over-year increase and only a few dozen fewer than a historic and long-awaited milestone CEO Elon Musk has been aiming for for more than five years.
Tesla reported Saturday that it produced 509,737 electric vehicles in 2020.
Tesla met its 500,000-vehicle target by increasing production and sales in the fourth quarter – a final move that reflected numerous other efforts by the company at the end of the quarter. Tesla shipped 180,570 in the fourth quarter, setting a new quarterly record, up 30% from the previous quarter.
The company's production and sales figures were also driven by the introduction of the Model Y, its mid-size SUV and a new factory in China.
The fourth quarter and year numbers show the surge in demand for cheaper and newer models and the waning interest in the Model S flagship sedan and Model X SUV. The company shipped 18,920 Model S and X vehicles as well in the fourth quarter 57,039 vehicles for the year. Sales of the Model 3 and Model Y were nearly 162,000 in the fourth quarter and 442,511 in the year. Instead of splitting sales for each model, Tesla combines its older vehicles in one bucket and its newer Models 3 and Y in another. The company does not provide regional sales figures either.
The production and sale of more than 500,000 vehicles per year seemed out of reach for Tesla a few years ago. However, Musk has been optimistic about the company, finding in 2015 that he remains confident that Tesla will produce half a million cars in 2020.
"In five years," said Musk at the time. “If you worked for Tesla for five years in the past, we produced 600 cars a year – now we can produce 600 cars in three days. I think going from here to 500,000 cars a year is a much smaller leap. "
Musk has repeated this goal regularly, including last January when he found shipments should comfortably exceed 500,000 units. Tesla didn't adjust that forecast despite the COVID-19 pandemic reviving the economy and forcing the company, along with every other automaker, to temporarily suspend production for a few weeks last spring.