Tesla announced its financial results for the first quarter of 2022 yesterday and they are excellent, to say the least. The manufacturer specializing in electrics broke records on all fronts: revenues, profits, vehicles delivered or even on the margin. Good news for shareholders, as component shortages continue to plague the entire industry.
In detail, its revenues reached 18.7 billion dollars in the quarter, for 3.3 billion in profits. The first quarter of 2021 was much different in comparison, with 10.3 billion in revenue, but only 438 million in profit. The difference is found in the number of vehicles delivered – 310,048, the overwhelming majority of which are Model 3 and Model Y – and above all in the margin made on each sale, which reached 39.2% this quarter. An increase linked in particular to an increasing average price for each vehicle.
These financial results were also an opportunity to take stock of Tesla’s future. The Chinese factory, which produces nearly half of the vehicles sold by the manufacturer, was closed for several weeks due to a return of the pandemic and it only reopened this week at a slow pace. One month of production should be lost, which will necessarily have a big impact on the second quarter. And it is not the two new factories opened recently, in Texas and near Berlin, that will make the difference, they are still idling until further notice. Despite everything, Tesla plans to produce 1.5 million cars in 2022.
On this subject, the manufacturer notes that the new 4680 battery and the structural pack, two major innovations, will not impose themselves for a while. The Texas factory has started producing Model Ys with these characteristics, but it will also quickly produce more classic versions, with the old batteries. It will be the opposite in Germany, where production started with classic packs and will switch very gradually to new batteries by the end of the year. In Texas, mass production of these batteries is not expected until the third quarter at the earliest.
These compromises betray a continued difficulty for the ramp-up in production of these batteries designed in-house and announced in 2020. The first Model Y equipped prove in any case that the advantage is first for the manufacturer, which will be able to reduce its production costs , more than for the customer who should not initially benefit from a price reduction or an increase in battery capacity at the same price. This may change when mass production of 4680 batteries is reached, which is expected to take several years.
In the meantime, Tesla continues to work with batteries supplied by third parties, mainly Panasonic for North America and LG for the rest of the world. The financial results also revealed that nearly half of the vehicles delivered during the quarter included an LFP battery supplied by the Chinese CATL. This corresponds to the entry-level Model 3 Propulsion, which remains one of the most popular in the catalog.
The future of Tesla is also autonomous driving and Elon Musk did not fail to talk about it after the financial results. The company now intends to produce a completely new vehicle, a “Robotaxi”, which will be designed solely for autonomous driving and thus without a steering wheel or pedals and which should offer the lowest operating cost, and “of away”, for users. This model should be used to fill fleets of self-service vehicles in cities, rather than being sold to customers. And Tesla intends to launch its mass production quickly, since it is planned as early as 2024, with a formal presentation next year.
An ambitious schedule that we will take with the big tweezers now mandatory when Elon Musk promises anything related to autonomous driving. Need we remind you that the boss of Tesla has been multiplying promises since 2016, pushing back deadlines year after year? Right now, the FSD beta represents the most advanced version of autonomous driving and it’s still far, far away from working without human intervention, even on the wide roads of American cities. And since Elon Musk discovered Europe, he has become much more cautious about dates on this side of the Atlantic. However, the final version is still scheduled for the United States in 2022.
This idea of a vehicle without a steering wheel or pedal is not new at Tesla, we were already talking about it in 2019, but with a nuance of size. At the time, it was the cars already on the road that were to be used to create these self-driving vehicle fleets, and the company was thinking of salvaging them after long-term rentals, removing the steering wheels and adding them to the fleet. The message seems to have changed, as if Tesla realized that the hardware installed in cars sold in recent years was not enough.
Another question, has Tesla changed its mind about the smaller model which was to be designed in China, be better suited to the Chinese and European markets and be added to the entry level? We don’t hear about it anymore and we might wonder if the future Robotaxi has not taken the place of this model. Anyway, plans have time to change several times between now and 2024.
Remember that Tesla has three vehicles pending, some of which have been announced for five years: the Cybertruck, the Roadster and the Semi. If all goes well, their production should start in 2023, but everything depends largely on the manufacturer’s ability to mass produce its new batteries.