Elon Musk’s car company Tesla has reported its second consecutive profitable year after posting $24.83 billion (US$17.72) billion in revenue for the final quarter of 2021.
Tesla delivered 936,000 cars in 2021, almost doubling its 2020 record of just under 500,000 but falling short of the one million cars promised by CEO Elon Musk.
In an earnings call on Thursday morning, Musk called 2021 a “breakthrough” year for the car company which comfortably beat estimates of its fourth-quarter revenue.
Musk somewhat tempered expectation of delivery on new products, saying the focus for 2022 is “scaling output” as the company continues to reel from supply chain issues.
“If we were to introduce new vehicles our total vehicle output would decrease,” Musk said.
“Last year we spent a lot of engineering and natural resources solving supply chain issues – re-writing code, changing out chips, reducing the number of chips we need; chip drama central.”
For pre-orders of the company’s Cybertruck – which was unveiled in spectacularly unconventional fashion in late 2019 – this means at least another year of waiting patiently.
Never one to shy away from offering some sizzle to his legion of fans and supporters, Musk did say that the Full Self-Driving feature will be achieved in 2022, adding that the controversial software update will become an important single aspect of Tesla’s business model.
“Over time we think Full Self-Driving will become the most important source of profitability for Tesla,” he said.
“If you run the numbers on robotaxis it’s kind of nutty, nutty good from a financial standpoint.
“The cars in the fleet essentially becoming self-driving through a software update might end up being the biggest increase in asset value of any asset class in history, we shall see.”
Earlier this year, Tesla said it was upping the price of its Full Self-Driving feature to US$12,000 – adding an extra US$2,000 to the over-the-air update which Musk regularly promises will fulfill his vision of autonomous vehicles.
Full Self-Driving has drawn the ire of road safety regulators which have long identified major problems with the significantly less autonomous Autopilot feature.
Although there won’t be any new Tesla product lines delivered this year, Musk said development is continuing on products like the Cybertruck and the Optimus Humanoid Robot which the Tesla CEO claims is “the most important product development this year”.
Musk ‘unveiled’ the Tesla robot last August in a bizarre presentation that didn’t feature a demonstration of the company’s humanoid robot but did include a person dressed as the robot dancing on stage.
Should the company be able to deliver on its promise of a general use humanoid robot, Musk said it has “the potential to be more significant than [Tesla’s] vehicle business”.
“If you think about the economy, the foundation of the economy is labour,” he said.
“So what happens if you don’t have a labour shortage? I’m not sure what an economy means at that point. That’s what Optimus is about.”