Tesla reported record deliveries of its electric cars in the last three months of 2020, coming within a whisker of achieving the half-million target for the year set by its chief executive, Elon Musk.
The California-based manufacturer’s annual sales rose by 36% after a final quarter that exceeded analysts’ expectations, delivering a total of 499,550 cars in 2020.
Tesla delivered 180,570 electric vehicles between October and December, falling just short of the overall target Musk had set at the beginning of the year, before the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Covid-19 forced the shutdown of the company’s Fremont US assembly plant in the spring, but Musk urged employees to increase production to hit the target, and last week offered incentives including free “self-driving” options worth $10,000 (£7,300) on Tesla cars whose paperwork and delivery was completed in the last days of December.
Despite apparently missing the target, Tesla said it had “produced and delivered half a million vehicles, in line with our most recent guidance”, and Musk hailed it as a “major milestone”.
He tweeted: “So proud of the Tesla team for achieving this major milestone! At the start of Tesla thought we had (optimistically) a 10% chance of surviving at all.”
More than 509,000 cars were made by the manufacturer in 2020. Production of its Model Y SUV has also begun in its Chinese plant in Shanghai, with deliveries expected to begin shortly, Tesla said.
Tesla’s share price, which rose eightfold in 2020, ended the year at more than $705, valuing the company at $669bn – 20% of which is owned by Musk himself, who is the world’s second-richest man. It overtook Toyota earlier in the year as the world’s most valuable carmaker and last month joined the prestigious Wall Street S&P index, immediately becoming its sixth most valuable listed company.